Sunday, December 21, 2014

Statement Of H.E. Hamid Karzai President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan At the 66th Session of the United Nations General Assembly Delivered by H.E. Dr. Zalmai Rassoul Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Mr. President,

I am honoured to be here to read the statement of my President, His Excellency Hamid Karzai, who had to return from New York to Kabul on an urgent basis, following the tragic assassination, through a terrorist plot, of Afghanistan’s former president and Chairman of the High Peace Council, Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani.

Statement

The President’s message begins:

Excellency Secretary General,

Mr. President,

Distinguished delegates; ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great honour to address this year’s session of the General Assembly of the United Nations; though I regret that I am unable to do so in person. I was here in New York the day before yesterday and looked forward to attending this important session of the General Assembly.  I had to return to Kabul after the tragic news of the martyrdom of former President and Chairman of the Afghan High Peace Council, Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani. He was assassinated in a cowardly terrorist plot by the enemies of peace in our country.

As I speak, the Afghan nation is mourning the loss not only of a valued and deeply respected national figure, but a champion of peace who worked tirelessly, up to the last moment of his distinguished life, for peace in his country.  On behalf of the Afghan people, I am grateful for the messages of condolences expressed by leaders around the world for this terrible national loss in Afghanistan.

Mr. President,

As the single largest gathering of nations, this Assembly is the highest manifestation of the plurality of our world.  It is also the most solemn opportunity we get once a year to bring to global attention our national concerns, as well as issues that are, in our view, of concern to the wider world.

Over this past year, the world not only saw political volatility of historic proportions in the Middle East, but also the unabated global economic crisis, huge rise in prices of food and energy, and enormous devastation wrought by natural disasters.  Most countries around the world have seen aggravated conditions of life for their peoples, and for many others the future looks continuously bleak.  In short, Mr. President, we live in times of uncertainty and crises and it is at times like these that international cooperation gains true relevance and meaning.

Ten days ago, this very city marked the tenth year of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  On behalf of the people of Afghanistan, who have experienced the scourge of terrorism in its worst imaginable form,

I pay homage and respect to the memory of the 9/11 tragedy, and commiserate with the people of the United States for their sense of loss that this anniversary has rekindled.

On this occasion, I urge this Assembly to also reflect on the millions of lives around the world that were touched by terror and violence before 9/11, and those that have been lost to terrorist violence over the ten years since.  My country Afghanistan has suffered the most, but many – from Pakistan to India, to Iraq, to Europe and many others around the world – have fallen victim to this modern-day enemy of peace.  I urge you also to honour the sacrifices many nations have made in the fight against terrorism around the world. Above all, however, I ask that we pause and take stock of where we are ten years after the world was shaken into an unprecedented resolve to act in the face of a common enemy.

H.E. Zalmai Rassoul, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan, addresses the general debate of the sixty-sixth session of the General Assembly.

H.E. Zalmai Rassoul, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan, addresses the general debate of the sixty-sixth session of the General Assembly.

Mr. President,

Later this year, Afghanistan will also mark an anniversary – the ten years of a new political era heralded by the end of the Taliban rule and characterized by the beginning of a journey towards a peaceful, prosperous and democratic way of life.  There is so much that we have got to celebrate by way of the enormous achievements we have had – with solidarity and generous help from the international community.  These ten years have been a truly unique chapter in the history of our ancient country.  Grasping the opportunity, we took bold steps to re-unite the country after decades of strife and violence, laying the foundations of a young democracy.  Our social and economic accomplishments are phenomenal – greater by comparison to any other period in our country’s history.  Never before had the Afghan people enjoyed comparable access to education and health, or seen greater development of infrastructure across the country.

Regrettably, the sense of gratitude and pride we feel at our achievements is tempered by the absence of a key ingredient of a country’s development – namely security. Despite the Afghan people’s sincere embrace of the international fight against terrorism, and the immeasurable sacrifices offered in this path, we are yet to reap the reward and experience of a life free of violence and terror.

We Afghans are proud to have partnered, over the past ten years, with the world’s struggle against terrorism.  While together we have fought and crushed extremists in some of its long-held strongholds, elsewhere they have continued to thrive.  Today, we see a worrying trend towards more radicalization of the youth.  Al Qaida, despite the elimination of its leaders, remains active in the region, and the Taliban militancy maintains its deadly spectre over my country.  Both continue to receive sanctuary and support in the region that keeps them alive.  This sanctuary problem is, without a doubt, the Achilles’ Heel of this war.

To the extent that international terrorism and extremism remain real threats to international security, peace will remain mortgaged to the success of the fight in the region.  To succeed, however, we must fundamentally review and adjust our approaches in this fight.  It is a matter of urgency that we focus our strategy to make our collective struggle more objective and result-oriented.  Our enemy must not be defined by a selective treatment of geography to which we have access, but by an assessment of the threat it poses, regardless of where it may be based.

The Afghan people remain ardent supporters of the fight against international terrorism, despite having suffered unspeakable losses in this endeavor.  However, we fail to see the efficacy of the fight in which ordinary citizens bear the brunt while terrorist sanctuaries remain untouched far away from the towns and villages of Afghanistan.  The continued credibility of the fight will, above all, depend on taking its focus to where terrorism originates.

On the other hand, when it comes to the Taliban insurgency, we do not see military action as the only solution.  In our eager quest for restoring peace to the lives of our people, we have extended a hand of peace and reconciliation to all those Afghans who have had reason to remain outside the boundaries of the current political process in Afghanistan.

Led until now by the late Professor Rabbani, who is tragically no longer among us, through the High Peace Council, and supported by our partners from the international community, the peace process is a comprehensive effort, covering re-integration of armed combatants into dignified civilian life, as well as reconciling the leadership of the Taliban.

The reconciliation policy is based on our commitment to make the political process more inclusive, and to provide a genuine and acceptable alternative to violence for all Taliban and other militant leaders most of whom are currently based outside Afghanistan.

Those leaders are welcome to return home and play their desirable role in Afghan politics and government, provided that they break ties with Al Qaida, give up violent activities and accept the Afghan Constitution.  Clearly, without sincere cooperation from regional and international partners, notably the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, this strategy will not succeed.

Mr. President,

2011 is a crucial year for Afghanistan.  The most important development for our country was the commencement of the Transition process last July.  This process will see the complete transfer of security responsibility from international forces to Afghans by end of 2014.  With the completion of the Transition process, we Afghans and our international partners will achieve the most important strategic goal of our ten-year-long partnership: the emergence of a sovereign Afghanistan that is self-reliant, and is the peaceful home of all Afghans; an Afghanistan that is at peace, and lives in peace with the rest of the world.

Needless to say, the success of the Transition process depends, apart from the demand and solid resolve of the Afghan people, on the continued support of the international community.  The role of our NATO partners, particularly in terms of the capacity development of our security institutions, will be vital.

On the other hand, Transition is not just limited to security.  Indeed, while Transition is both desirable and inevitable, the economic effect of the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan needs to be managed carefully.  In other words, for Afghanistan to become truly self-reliant, apart from the security transition, we will need a comprehensive economic transition.  This transition will take a much longer time than the transition of security, and will require the continuation of the steadfast support of our international partners far beyond 2014.

Mr. President,

In this context, we look forward to the much awaited International Conference on Afghanistan in Bonn, Germany, on 5 December 2011.  Hosted by Germany, Chaired by Afghanistan, the Bonn Conference will be an opportunity for us to brief our international partners about the major accomplishments of the past ten years and, in particular, about the progress of the Transition and reconciliation processes.

Most importantly, at Bonn, we will call for continued commitment of the international community to assist Afghanistan in the post-2014 period after the foreign military presence on the Afghan soil comes to an end.  To this end, we will share our vision for the next ten years – the vision of developing Afghanistan into a stable country, a functioning democracy, and a prospering economy.  As a country at the centre of an emerging ‘new silk road’, Afghanistan can become a regional hub for trade and transit.  This vision is worth all the efforts we Afghans can muster, as well as all the support we can get from the international community.

As a framework for long-term partnership, we will call for a new paradigm of cooperation between Afghanistan and our friends and partners.  The Strategic Partnership we are currently negotiating with the United States and other partners, including the European Union, will be a model for the kind of enduring and comprehensive partnership we wish to have with members of the international community.  These partnerships will help guarantee Afghanistan’s security and stability, as well as assist our future economic development.  I emphasize that, neither our Strategic Partnership with the United States, nor any other partnerships we will forge in the future, shall be a threat to our neighbors or any other country.

I also emphasize that, in the context of these future partnerships, the principle of Afghan sovereignty, and the centrality of the Afghan state, must be given due credence – that the manner of our continued partnership should conform to the requirements of a sovereign Afghanistan.  As an important step in this direction, all the parallel structures created by the international community, be it in the security, governance or development arenas, must be removed to make space for the emergence of genuine and capable indigenous institutions.

In particular, the role of the UN in Afghanistan must be adjusted to the requirements of Afghan sovereignty.  I welcome the review of the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Afghanistan as authorized by the Secretary General.  Over the months ahead, we look forward to participating in this review and its desirable conclusion.

Mr. President,

On the subject of regional co-operation, we are currently working closely with Afghanistan’s old friend and brother, the Republic of Turkey, towards a regional conference, to be held in Istanbul on 2nd November 2011. Hosted by Turkey and championed by Afghanistan, the Istanbul Conference will help build a common regional vision for peace and stability.  The Conference will recognize Afghanistan’s quest for stability, as well as the region’s growing need for confidence building and cooperation in the face of the common challenges we face, notably terrorism, extremism, the drug trade, and obstacles to legitimate interaction and movement, to name but a few.

Over the past ten years, we have undertaken numerous initiatives to promote regional cooperation, mainly with a view to trade and economic activities.  However, we have learned that, unless we boldly address our political differences, and the deficit of trust and confidence that divides the region, regional cooperation will remain an aspiration. It is for this very reason that, at the Istanbul Conference, we shall aim to focus on political and security issues.

In the coming weeks, we will expect to consult with all countries in the Heart of Asia region to develop a common understanding in the run up to the Conference.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In today’s inter-connected world, developments in Afghanistan and the region that surrounds us are hugely influenced by events in the wider world.  Therefore, we in Afghanistan are closely watching the situation in the Middle East.  As a nation that has experienced war and destruction for many years, eruption of violence in these countries fills us with anxiety.

We are particularly concerned by the developments in Libya.  We do recognize the National Transitional Council (NTC) as the legitimate government of Libya.  However, based on our own experience, we urge the brotherly Libyan nation that the shortest route to peace will be through ensuring inclusivity and safeguarding the unity of the Libyan nation.

The people of Afghanistan deeply sympathize with the plight of our brothers and sisters in Palestine. We reiterate our call for an immediate end to their suffering and the realization of their inalienable rights, including the right to an independent State. In this connection, we stand firmly behind efforts aimed at Palestine’s admission as a full member of the United Nations.  I hope that this year we will witness, with pride, the inclusion of Palestine as the 194th member of the United Nations.

The Afghan people also shared the pain of loss of the Japanese people when the natural disasters struck earlier this year.  Japan is a longstanding friend of Afghanistan and we are confident that this great nation will soon overcome the challenges of recovery.

Mr. President,

This august Assembly is a manifestation of our collective will to stand together against the challenges that face human society, and to realize the potential for a peaceful and prosperous world for all. Our gathering here is also a testimony to the valuable role that the United Nations plays in the realization of our collective will.  I applaud the remarkable leadership that Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has demonstrated in steering the UN in the direction where it truly becomes an asset to a peaceful world.

And finally, ladies and gentlemen, many countries from across the globe have stood in solidarity, over the past ten years, with the Afghan people.  On behalf of the people of Afghanistan, I again thank you for your support.

Thank you.

Press Release

Afghanistan Addresses the UN’s General Assembly 66th Session

This Thursday evening, H.E. Dr. Zalmai Rassoul, the Foreign Minister of Afghanistan, addressed the United Nations General Assembly (GA) as part of the 66th Session of the GA’s general debate. H.E. Dr. Rassoul delivered a statement on behalf of the President of Afghanistan H.E. Mr. Hamid Karzai, who unexpectedly had to cut short his visit to New York to return to Kabul in response to the assassination of High Peace Council chairman and former president, Burhanuddin Rabbani.

With this tragic incident fresh in the minds of all, the statement hit home with its strong condemnation of terrorism in all its forms, commiseration with the victims of terror, and commitment to furthering the fight against terrorists. The statement drew special attention to the problem of terrorist safe-havens and sanctuaries in the region, calling such sanctuaries the “Achilles’ Heel” of the coalition’s war effort and stressing the urgent need for their elimination. The statement also stressed the simultaneous need for renewed efforts at reconciliation and reintegration of insurgents, a need especially pertinent in the wake of Professor Rabbani’s brutal assassination.

While security issues featured prominently in the statement, it also highlighted the progress of and prospects for Afghanistan’s economic development. “Never before have the Afghan people enjoyed comparable access to education and health,” Dr. Rassoul stated, “or seen greater development of infrastructure across the country.”

The statement also highlighted the economic and political dimensions of the ongoing Transition process toward Afghan ownership and leadership, including streamlining institutions, eliminating redundancy, and reviewing the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). Achieving a successful, comprehensive transition was described as “the most important strategic goal of our ten-year-long partnership: the emergence of a sovereign Afghanistan that is self-reliant, and is the peaceful home of all Afghans”. The statement also elaborated upon the importance of regional cooperation to create a ‘new silk road’ to Afghanistan’s long-term economic development.

Dr. Rassoul concluded the statement on behalf of President Karzai by touching on recent developments around the world. He expressed brotherly concern and sympathy over Libya’s post-conflict reconstruction process, and full support for the cause of the Palestinian people in seeking admission to the UN as an independent sovereign state.

Video

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.