Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Statement of H.E. Dr. Zalmai Rassoul, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Informal SAARC Meeting of Foreign Ministers

Statement of H.E. Dr. Zalmai Rassoul, Minister of Foreign Affairs of

Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Informal SAARC Meeting of Foreign Ministers Delivered by Mr. Daud Yaar


Mr. Chairman,

Allow me at the outset to express my sincere appreciation to the Government of Maldives for its successful stewardship of our organization.

Mr. Chairman, Excellencies and colleagues,

Since SAARC’s inception 26 years ago, the organization proved itself as an effective forum for cooperation among its member-states. However, much more have to be done to address the challenges that our region facing and to advance the goals of our association, and realize the vision of a peaceful and prosperous South Asia.

Mr. Chairman,

Afghanistan is pursing regional cooperation as the corner-stone for its overall efforts to secure peace, stability and prosperity. In this regard, we are making steady progress on the implementation of a number of key regional projects.

Afghanistan is convinced that increased intra-SAARC economic cooperation is one of the most efficient ways to achieve prosperity in our sub-continent. Unfortunately, the volume of trade among SAARC members has not reached desired levels. This is mainly due to tariff, non-tariff, and para-tariff barriers, which remain unaddressed. We also appeal for special consideration to least developed and land-locked developing member-states within the SAARC community.

Mr. Chairman,

Among the main achievements of SAARC we can name a number of SAARC conventions and agreements on the protection of women and children; combating terrorism, narcotics and organized crime; advancing social and cultural development, and fostering mutual understanding in the region.

Mr. Chairman,

Trans-national threats such as terrorism, extremism, poverty, organized crime and natural disasters, still exist. Terrorism is among the dominant challenges in the region. Terrorism, as a common enemy for all, is part of a complex and sophisticated terror network, responsible for attacks across the region. To fight terrorism, we must reinforce our determination and take steps to free our region from this threat.  We must also focus more on addressing terrorist safe-havens and sanctuaries in the region, which operate as the life-line for terrorist activities. By the same token, success in defeating terrorism will not be achieved without respect for the principles of good-neighborly relations, and a transparent foreign policy. We stress on increased collaboration within the framework of the SAARC Terrorist Offences Monitoring Desk (STOMD).

Excellencies,

Widespread poverty and fragile socio-economic conditions are serious challenges that our region faces.  The global financial and economic crisis is yet not over and the recovery is uneven and uncertain. We believe that sustainable development could not be achieved without promotion of trade. To tackle the problem of food security and lagging agriculture development, increased efforts at the national and regional levels are required to address the problem as an integral part of the international development agenda. We believe that achieving food security without strengthening and revitalizing the agriculture sector, including through the empowerment of women and rural populations, small and medium scale farmers, is not possible. By the same token, we should consider launching of efficient poverty eradication programs to meet the SAARC Development Goals (SDG’s).

Mr. Chairman,

Our region is rich with natural resources, to utilize these resources for better prosperity and well-being of all our citizens, closer collaboration, technical and financial assistance, access to and transfer of technology, capacity building and exchange of knowledge and experience should be enhanced.

Natural disasters such as flooding, earthquakes and mudslides are becoming more frequent in the SAARC region. Joint efforts are required in order to further strengthen the capacity of member-states to prepare for and respond to disasters. The recent flooding in Pakistan, which caused tremendous human loss and destruction of property, is a clear example of the dangers that we all face.   I take this opportunity to restate the condolences and sympathies of the people and government of Afghanistan to our Pakistani brothers and sisters over the loss of life resulting from this tragic disaster.

Mr. Chairman,

Just two-days ago we witnessed the convening of the UN High Level Meeting on Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases held at the United Nation Headquarters in New York and the adoption of its political declaration. In this regard, we call on SAARC members to strengthening cooperation among themselves in the area of public health. SAARC members as well should coordinate their policies for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), which will be held in Brazil in 2012. We also emphasize on the importance of sustainable forest management for sustainable development and poverty eradication.

In conclusion, let me repeat Afghanistan’s strong commitment to advancing the goals of our association.

Thank You!

Remarks by H.E. Foreign Minister Rassoul at the New Silk Road Ministerial Meeting

Distinguished Colleagues,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to join you all here today. I wish to thank Foreign Minister Westerwelle for hosting this important meeting and Secretary Clinton for joining us in co-chairing our discussion.  I also express gratitude to all other colleagues and participants for being here today.
Looking around, I see some of Afghanistan’s closest friends; friends that have stood by us during difficult times, and helped us come this far, to the point where we have consolidated our state institutions, enabled democracy to take root, improved the lives of our people; and begun taking security responsibility on our own.

As we transition to Afghan ownership, coinciding with a drawdown of international forces, we are working to lay the foundation for a fully sovereign, self-reliant and effective Afghan state.

We all know that regional economic cooperation offers the best chance to bring peace, stability and prosperity to Afghanistan, and our region. More needs to be done to create a strong network of economic and trade activities across the wider region, which will help alleviate poverty, advance socio-economic development, and provide a sound basis for a more peaceful and prosperous region.

We are working to regain our historic role as a land-bridge connecting South and Central Asia with the Middle East. We are convinced that the vision of a New Silk Road holds the promise of achieving an economically vibrant regional order, spanning across borders and continents. Afghanistan is pursuing this vision with urgency. In this connection, together with our regional partners, we are making important headway on a number of important projects, each of which will serve to benefit our common goals. These include the TAPI pipeline project, for transfer of energy and the CASA 1000 energy-trading project.

Additionally, we are investing in the expansion of our transportation sector, and have conducted a comprehensive overhaul of our national legislation concerning trade and transit to meet our full potential as an economic asset for our region. As we speak, important work is underway in the construction of our national ring road, linking us with neighboring countries. Despite the continued efforts of terrorists to disrupt our development agenda, we have constructed close to 10,000 kilometers of roads across the country. At the same time, the implementation of our national railway scheme is resolutely apace.

Our region is filled with vast amounts of untapped natural resources. And, notwithstanding our challenges, Afghanistan is no exception. Our mineral deposits are among the largest supply in the world, and have the potential to become the backbone of our economy. As President Karzai stated at the international Kabul Conference, “these resources are real and very substantial…and if properly harnessed, these assets make our state-building affordable.” We will make the best of these resources; to strengthen our economy; to attract foreign investment; to put our people to work; and to help achieve stability in our region.
We are also focusing on a number of bilateral, regional, and multi-lateral trade and transit agreements, with countries in the region, and other partners, each of which will benefit prosperity in our region.  More recently, in June of this year, following decades of stalemate and delay, we signed, in your presence, Secretary Clinton, the Afghanistan-Pakistan Trade and Transit Agreement with Pakistan. We are convinced that this historic agreement will have an enormous impact on our bilateral trade. It will also help facilitate increased trade among regional countries.
Our goal is to achieve an Afghan economy whose growth is based on trade, private enterprise and investment. To this end, we have upgraded and modernized our national laws to eliminate barriers constraining movement of goods and peoples; to promote foreign and direct investment; to root out financial mismanagement wherever it may occur, to ensure transparency and efficiency in our banking system; and to encourage the creation of new and flourishing businesses.

We are also working to strengthen regional cooperation within the framework of various regional organizations and initiatives, including the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, (SAARC), Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC).

In that connection, I wish to underscore important progress being made within the framework of the (RECCA) initiative, the fourth round of which took place last November in Istanbul, building on the success of the three previous conferences held in Kabul, New Delhi, and Islamabad. In this connection, we look forward to the 5th round in Tajikistan. Through RECCA, and other initiatives, key achievements have been made in a number of important areas, including trade, connectivity, border management and energy and agricultural cooperation. The Center for Regional Cooperation at the Afghan Foreign Ministry is doing important work for effective follow-up of relevant projects.

The upcoming Istanbul Conference on Afghanistan will be a milestone in mapping out a new framework for regional cooperation, aimed at achieving a prosperous Afghanistan and region. We thank the Government of Turkey for hosting this important initiative.

Before concluding, I want to convey our gratitude to the international community, those in our region and beyond, for your continued support to a peaceful, stable, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan. I also take the opportunity to reiterate our conviction that effective regional cooperation and the re-emergence of the Silk Road are vital for peace, security and stability in our region. Afghanistan fully endorses this important initiative as an important part of our comprehensive efforts to rebuild our country, and strengthen regional economic cooperation. We stand ready to do our part in seeing through its implementation.
And I convey a special thanks to you, Secretary Clinton, for your personal commitment and dedication to seeing a workable and effective strategy take shape for peace, security and stability in Afghanistan and the region.

I Thank You.

Statement by H.E. Dr. Zalmai Rassoul at the General Debate of the 65th Session of the United Nations General Assembly


Mr. President,

Mr. Secretary General,

Excellencies,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I join previous speakers, Mr. President, in congratulating you on your election as the President of the 65th Session of the United Nations General Assembly. I am confident that under your able stewardship our deliberations will be fruitful.

Statement

Mr. President,

Sixty-five years ago, the creation of the United Nations heralded hope for global peace, security, and respect for human dignity. And today the UN remains the most effective universal body in preserving the principles upon which it was founded. As one of its earliest member-states, Afghanistan fully and consistently subscribes to the centrality of the United Nations, and to the principles of multilateralism that guarantee a democratic international order, in which we all have an equal voice and participation in decisions impacting our world.

Mr. President,

Today, more than ever before, our world demands a commitment to working together so that we may overcome the multifaceted challenges and threats to our survival and well-being. The United Nations is pivotal to our ability to translate our common sense of purpose and determined political will to replace desperation with hope, poverty with prosperity, injustice with justice and violence with peace.

Last week, the High-Level Plenary on the MDG’s adopted the Outcome Document and Action Plan for the full realization of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Fifteen year’s ago when the MDGs were adopted, we recognized that comprehensive and collective effort was essential for the attainment of the goals. Last week’s Summit again underscored the need for enhanced international cooperation and coordination in order to achieve human development and well-being.

Afghanistan remains fully committed to meeting its MDG targets. We have made some progress, but the scourge of international terrorism, insecurity, and threats to the rule of law and governance remain enormous challenges to promoting human development in Afghanistan.

Mr. President,

On the of the eve of the 9th anniversary of the declaration of the Global War on Terror in October 2001, the international community’s promise to the people of Afghanistan of a life free from the fear of the threat and exploitation of international terrorism remains unfulfilled. Afghans continue to suffer from horrific acts of terrorist violence on a daily basis.

On many occasions from this podium, the Afghan delegation has drawn the attention of the global community to the reality that terrorism and the ideologies of extremism and radicalism are spawned beyond the borders of Afghanistan.

In spite of the combined efforts of our military allies, terrorists continue to infiltrate our borders with the intent to inflict harm on our people and soldiers of partner countries.  As long as certain state and non-state actors provide Al Qaeda, and its affiliated individuals and entities with sanctuary, arms and financing, they will remain formidable and murderous adversaries.

H.E. Dr. Zalmai Rassoul, Foreign Minister of Afghanistan, addresses the UN

Terrorism in our region is a growing threat to world peace and security. The audacity and geographic scope of extremist and terrorist groups harbored in our region continues to expand.  If our international partners and allies wish to win the global war on terrorism, they must look beyond villages in Afghanistan, and engage in a strategy that will effectively and decisively dismantle organizations and networks that continue – with immunity- to support terrorist and radical militants.  Terrorism remains a global challenge which can be defeated only through a concerted international effort.

In this context, Mr. President, Afghanistan is committed to expanding counter-terrorism cooperation with the Government of Pakistan and with other countries in our region.

Mr. President,

The people of Afghanistan have known too much violence and too much despair.  We have seen too many of our youth lose their lives as a result of war and conflict. The Afghan people crave peace, stability, and security.

Though our fight against those who menace the life and well-being of our people will continue unabated, we recognize that the success of our efforts for development and prosperity depends largely on our ability to achieve sustainable peace in our country.

With this objective in mind, the Afghan Government convened a “Consultative Peace Jirga” in May of this year.  The Jirga fulfilled President Karzai’s promise to consult and engage all Afghans in peace-building initiatives. The Jirga, which assembled tribal leaders, representatives of provincial councils, parliamentarians, businesses, civil society, and had over 20% female participation, helped to jump-start a representative peace and reconciliation process that will be pursued in conformity with our Constitution and human rights commitments.

The Consultative Peace Jirga agreed on a framework to encourage the rank and file of the Taliban to end violence and to join a reconciliation and reintegration process.  It defined the conditions for a peace dialogue with Taliban leaders, and endorsed the establishment of a Peace Commission to oversee the reintegration of armed opposition fighters, who renounce violence, resume civilian life, accept our constitution, and embrace our democracy.

Mr. President,

Over the past eight years, we and our international partners have realized substantial achievements, but also have made mistakes.  Many challenges and obstacles remain in ensuring sustainable security for the people of Afghanistan, and to meet their aspirations for a better life and future.

At the London and Kabul Conferences, held earlier this year, the international community not only reaffirmed its commitment to safeguard Afghanistan’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and stability, but also recognized the critical importance of Afghan ownership and leadership to consolidate our joint achievements, and to engage the greater confidence of the Afghan people.

By building on the mutual commitments made at the milestone conferences of London and Kabul to transition security and development responsibilities to the Afghans, and by pursing comprehensive economic development, security, governance, and our inclusive reconciliation strategies, we are convinced that we will successfully combat the efforts of extremists and terrorists to regain hold of Afghanistan.

Mr. President,

For our part, the Government of Afghanistan is steadfast in its commitment to pursuing the reform agenda that President Karzai outlined in his inaugural speech.  We are committed to reinforcing our social compact with the people of Afghanistan by strengthening our judiciary, combating corruption, revitalizing our economy, and promoting good governance at all levels of government.

As demonstrated by the recently held parliamentary elections, the government and people of Afghanistan are steadfast in advancing our democracy.

With the support and collaboration of our international partners and allies, we are committed to enhancing the capacity and ability of the Afghan Security Forces to assume greater responsibility for the protection and security of our country.

In this context, I wish to acknowledge the enhanced effort of our military allies to protect our civilian populations from the detrimental effects of military operations against the terrorists and militants.

Mr. President,

The people of Afghanistan embrace the challenge of building a better future. However, insidious dangers of extremism and terrorism and their ever-increasing link with narcotics pose a serious threat to the security and stability of our country and region.  Along side our fight against terrorism we are committed to working closely with our neighbors and other international partners to win the war on narcotics.

To complement our efforts towards eliminating poppy production, we wish to see greater action to counter smuggling of precursors into our country and to reduce demand and consumption of drugs in other countries.

Recent climate-induced disasters experienced in our region, such as the catastrophic floods in Pakistan pose severe challenges not only for local populations and national governments, but may carry ramifications on the economies of regional countries, and global security. We see increased urgency for effective regional collaboration for disaster mitigation and response.

Mr. President,

At different international, regional and sub-regional gatherings, we have emphasized the importance of a stable, moderate, and democratic Afghanistan for economic development of our region and global security. By the virtue of its location at the heart of four important geo-strategic regions (Central Asia, South Asia, China and the Middle-East), Afghanistan could play an important role in facilitating increased trade and transit in the region, and unleashing the enormous potential in our region. We will work to further gains in increased trade and transit with regional countries. The recent conclusion of the Afghanistan-Pakistan-Trade and Transit Agreement (APPTA), and signing of the Heads of Agreement for the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project are milestones for increased regional cooperation. Additionally, we have concluded the feasibility study for the CASA 1000 project for transfer of electricity from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to Afghanistan and Pakistan.  These initiatives will contribute greatly to peace, security and stability in our region.

Afghanistan stands ready to intensify cooperation with all its neighbors on the economic, political and criminal issues.

Mr. President,

I have spoken of the desire and right of the people of Afghanistan for peace and stability. We are, however, acutely aware that for over half a century our brothers and sisters in Palestine have been denied their right to an independent state, living in peaceful co-existence with its neighbors. We are encouraged by the resumption of direct talks between the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships, which hold the hope for securing sustainable peace in the Middle East.

Mr. President,

To conclude, I thank the member states of this august assembly for their solidarity and support for the liberty and well-being of the people of Afghanistan.

The Afghan people will never forget the generosity and great sacrifice of the United States, NATO partners, and other international partners, whose men and women have bravely stood with us to defend our common security, and ensure peace and stability for Afghanistan.

I thank His Excellency, Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon for his efforts to revitalize the sense of partnership, cooperation and confidence between Afghanistan and the international community.

I also thank the dedicated and committed staff of the United Nations and its specialized agencies for helping the Afghan people to build a peaceful, secure and prosperous future.

Thank You Mr. President.

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