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Archives for November 2011

Ä°stanbul Process on Regional Security and Cooperation for A Secure and Stable Afghanistan, 2 November 2011

1. We have convened in İstanbul on 2 November 2011, under the leadership of H. E. Mr. Hamid Karzai, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, and H. E. Mr. Abdullah Gül, President of the Republic of Turkey, and at the joint invitation of H. E. Mr. Zalmai Rassoul, Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and H. E. Mr. Ahmet Davutoğlu, Foreign Minister of the Republic of Turkey, to reaffirm our strong commitment to a secure, stable and prosperous Afghanistan in a secure and stable region.

2. We affirm the commitments enshrined in the 2002 Kabul Declaration of Good Neighbourly Relations and agree that promoting regional security and cooperation requires measures to build confidence and trust among countries. Hence, we will be guided by the following set of common principles and commitments, which shall include, but not be limited to:

– Recognition of the central role of the United Nations in international affairs;

– Equal and indivisible security;

– Respect for the territorial integrity of States;

– Non-intervention in the internal affairs of other states;

– Support for the stability and peace in Afghanistan, as well as respect for Afghanistan’s sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity;

– Continued support for the Government and people of Afghanistan, as they develop their country, re-construct their economy, and further improve their human capital;

– Resolutely combating and eliminating terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and violent extremism, and preventing safe havens for terrorists and terrorism in the region;

– Dismantling terrorist sanctuaries and safe havens, disrupting all financial and tactical support for terrorism;

– Acknowledging that terrorism poses a threat to international peace and security as well as a common challenge to our societies, to the region, and that it can only be addressed through the concerted efforts of all countries;

– Facilitating the voluntary, dignified, and orderly return of Afghan refugees;

– Support for an inclusive Afghan national process of reconciliation, in accordance with the Constitution of Afghanistan and in ways which is Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-driven;

– Constructive and supportive relationship between countries of the region;

– Refraining from the threat or use of force and not to allow one’s territory to be used against another;

– Elimination of illicit drug production, trade and trafficking;

– Preventing the cultivation and production of narcotics;

– Preventing the activities of extremist organizations and organized crime networks through enhanced cooperation;

– Supporting and promoting law enforcement cooperation;

– Peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with the United Nations Charter and international law;

– Fulfillment of obligations under international law;

3. Afghanistan and its international and regional partners will seek to develop and coordinate contributions to advance the above-stated principles.

4. We recognize Afghanistan’s role as the land bridge in the ‘Heart of Asia’, connecting South Asia, Central Asia, Eurasia and the Middle East, and reaffirm our support in the strongest possible terms to the secure, stable and peaceful future of Afghanistan. We welcome Afghanistan’s willingness and determination to use its regional and historical position to do its part to promote security and peaceful economic cooperation in the region.

5. We respect Afghanistan as a sovereign, independent, democratic state, which constitutes an integral component of the peace, well-being and prosperity of the region and beyond. We support the Government of Afghanistan’s priorities on the issues of security, governance, economy, counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics and regional cooperation.

6. We re-emphasize our determination to help Afghanistan fight terrorism and illicit drugs. In return, Afghanistan re-iterates its commitment to respect the territorial integrity of its neighbours, and to assure them that its relations with any state, on which it will be transparent, will not be directed against any third party. Afghanistan also reconfirms its will and determination to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, strengthen its economy, especially by ensuring good governance, promotion of investments, and addressing corruption, fight radicalism and narcotrafficking, respect human rights, in particular the rights of women, and to work together with its friends and partners for enhanced regional co-operation.

7. We reiterate our resolve to combat terrorism, extremism and separatism in all its forms and manifestations, the financing, harbouring, training and equipping of such activities, and acknowledge that terrorism, extremism and separatism pose a common challenge that can only be addressed through concerted efforts by countries of the region and the broader international community.

8. We will strengthen cooperation with Afghanistan, as well as regional and international cooperation, to counter the threat posed by the illicit production, trafficking, and consumption of drugs, in accordance with the principle of common and shared responsibility. Cooperation in combating the illicit drug production, trafficking and consumption should be exercised in a comprehensive manner and comprise poppy and cannabis crops eradication, elimination of drug laboratories, interception of drug caravans, detention of drug traffickers, freezing proceeds from illicit drugs, diversion of drug precursors, as well as introduction of alternative agriculture projects and strengthening measures directed at reduction of the level of drugs consumption in regional and international markets.

9. In assisting Afghanistan, we endorse its efforts at promoting an inclusive reconciliation process and welcome and support the efforts of the High Peace Council, and the implementation of the Afghan Peace and Reintegration Program. We strongly condemn the heinous terrorist attack which took the life of the former President and Head of the High Peace Council, Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani. We will continue to support Afghan-led efforts to reconcile and re-integrate those Afghan militant elements who renounce violence, cut links with terrorist groups, and accept the Afghan Constitution. We remain convinced that a peaceful Afghanistan, with functioning institutions and strengthened security forces, is key to a successful regional cooperation. We remind that the international community and the region are not separated and emphasize that we all have a stake in the security and stability of the region.

10. We mark our full support to the ongoing process of transition of responsibility for providing security in Afghanistan from ISAF/NATO to ANSF in the framework of the ‘Kabul Process’. We remain convinced that progress to be made between now and 2014, when transition will be completed, will make a decisive impact on the future course of efforts underway in Afghanistan. However, transition should assist Afghanistan and development of its relevant structures with a sustained support in the form of long term commitments to be made by regional and international partners. We welcome ongoing efforts by the Government of Afghanistan and its regional partners to foster trust and cooperation with each other as well as relevant cooperation initiatives developed by the countries concerned and regional organizations. The promotion of a sound regional cooperation in the ‘Heart of Asia’ will be an important contribution to these efforts. In this context, enhanced trade connectivity along historical trade routes will also constitute an added value and will require conducive regional environment.

11. We recognise that Afghanistan is today at a critical juncture. It still faces significant security, economic, and development challenges, which are of an interconnected nature. These challenges cannot be addressed without building upon the already constructive support of Afghanistan’s regional and international partners. The efforts to meet these challenges are most effective when they are Afghan-owned and driven, and supported by all partners and pursued in a transparent and constructive manner.

12. While not all challenges specifically affect each country in similar degree, no single state or international organization can deal with these challenges by itself. A concerted effort towards stability and prosperity is needed. Consequently, regional and international cooperation are indispensable to address challenges.

13. We declare our readiness to engage in sincere, result-oriented cooperation at all levels, which will not just help Afghanistan, but will also be beneficial to security and prosperity in the region as a whole. We welcome the central and impartial role of the United Nations, in line with the Security Council mandate, and we recognize the important role of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, the Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan, the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia, the Economic Cooperation Organization, the Eurasian Economic Union, the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, the United Nations Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia, and the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation in strengthening regional security and promoting regional cooperation. We welcome the participation of Afghanistan in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation and in the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, as well as its application to obtain the status of observer state with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

14. Similarly, we also positively take note of those bilateral, trilateral and quadrilateral initiatives between Afghanistan and the regional countries that could contribute to the improvement of regional cooperation. We welcome and support all these mechanisms, organisations and processes that add value to regional dimension. We also welcome various efforts aimed at intensifying cooperation and dialogue between Afghanistan and regional countries, recognising the intertwined nature of various challenges faced by all countries in the region. Our regional cooperation vision is not intended to substitute them, but to build synergy between these efforts.

15. These fundamental frameworks and principles of cooperation among countries are unequivocally pertinent in dealing with challenges. We note the value of a more coherent and structured approach to individual initiatives. We pledge to give strong emphasis and further impetus to the ongoing regional cooperation endeavours.

16. With this understanding, based on the principles, including guarantees of territorial integrity, sovereignty and refraining from the threat or use of force to resolve disputes; guarantees for non-intervention in the internal affairs of other States; and peaceful settlement of disputes according to international law, stated in this document, we will endeavour to build confidence through broad ranging and effective Confidence Building Measures (CBMs), where appropriate and based on self-differentation basis, which may include, but not be limited to, the areas listed hereafter.

A) In the political and security field:

– Enhanced cooperation for fighting terrorism, including through exchange of information;

– Participation in Civil Emergency Planning to assess risks and reduce vulnerability of the civil population to terrorism;

– Enhancement of cooperation among Afghanistan and its immediate neighbours for effective border controls;

– Creation or enhancement of conditions conducive to the voluntary and safe return of refugees, in a dignified and orderly manner;

– Exchange of information regarding forces responsible for counter-terrorism operations and facilitate contacts among them as appropriate;

– Co-operation and interaction among regional countries in the area of counter narcotics and the trafficking of illegal goods and lethal substance, and their precursors, including enhancing bilateral efforts to prevent illicit movement of personnel and material across international borders.

– Development of joint guidelines for cooperation in the field of disaster management;

B) In the economic field:

– Build, where appropriate, on the model of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement, ways to expand trade across the region;

– Trade facilitation strategy – The development of a coherent strategy to develop a regionally coherent trade and border management;

– Preferential Trade Agreement within the region without prejudice to existing trading agreements;

– Establishment of databases and a system of data exchange in trade and economic spheres;

– Improvement of the exchange of information on commercial opportunities and specific trading conditions;

– Improvement in the provisions for the settlement of commercial disputes, including various forms of arbitration;

– A strategy to encourage participation of the private sector in regional development programs, including through private sector-public sector joint ventures;

– Exchange of information on development of international tourism and tourist infrastructure and assistance in establishing and strengthening contacts;

– Exchange of information regarding suspicious financial transactions, illegal financial operations and assistance in establishing and strengthening contacts between appropriate authorities;

– Facilitation of the development of co-operation in the various field of environment;

– Improvement of business contacts and facilities;

– Encourage the establishment of a framework for enhanced cooperation among Chambers of Commerce;

– Training of personnel in various fields of economic activity;

– The development of a coherent strategy to develop and maintain a regionally connecting infrastructure, with support from international partners;

– Encouraging Afghanistan’s role as a land-bridge, connecting the region through cooperation and completion of bridges on trans-boundary rivers, roads and railway networks; in this connection, focusing on construction of new automobile bridges over the Panj River in Kokul and Ayvaj fields of Tajikistan and supporting the implementation of the project on a railway route from East, Central, South and West Asia and to the sea routes through Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan with existing Uzbekistan-Afghanistan railway being connected to a prospective Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Afghanistan railway, and supporting the implementation of the project on a railway route from Iran to Afghanistan, the Khaf-Herat Railway;

– Co-operation on easier flow of energy resources within, from and across the region, especially with regard to electricity, minerals, oil and gas, including their exploitation and transit, through regional projects, such as TAPI, and CASA-1000 project which has to be implemented with a broader financial contribution, as well as the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and the Islamic Development Bank;

– Wider support for Tajikistan`s efforts to conduct the 5th Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA V) which is planned to be held on March 26-27, 2012 in Dushanbe. Amongst other agenda items, the Conference will consider the proposal from Afghanistan and Tajikistan on enhancing trade connectivity along historical trade routes. On the margins of the RECCA V, we support the organization of a business forum and a forum of scientists and researchers.

– Exploring the possibility of cooperation in the development of hydroelectric power and in the sphere of water management without prejudice to existing agreements;

– Consider, wherever appropriate and mutually agreed, development of large-scale irrigation works without prejudice to existing agreements;

– A more effective regional cooperation in the agricultural and rural fields;

– The development of infrastructure around the main ports and linking them via road and railroad for shipment of goods and energy to and from Central Asia, South Asia, Eurasia and the Black Sea.

C) In the education field:

– Setting up a structured regional education exchange programme with places reserved in universities for students from neighbouring States within the region;

– Broadening cooperation and exchanges in the fields of education and science on a short or long-term basis;

– Expansion of links between State institutions and non-governmental bodies whose activities are concerned with questions of education and science and including scientific exchanges, exchange of students, joint events;

– Ensure that radical and hatred references are removed from education curriculum;

– Reform the curricula that promote extremism.

– Promotion of the role of mass media as a driver for democratic development and mutual understanding, and to spread messages of peace, harmony and tolerance;

– Establishing a multi-disciplinary professional and technical training Center in Tajikistan which is aimed at preparing civilian specialists for the needs of the Afghanistan economy, with support of international community.

D) In the cultural field:

– Joint projects aimed at disseminating information on various cultures and traditions in the region;

– Co-operation in preserving valuable cultural, historical, archaeological and religious assets;

– A common fight by all nations in the region against all forms and manifestation of violence;

– A joint effort to promote the true nature of Islam as a religion of peace, tolerance and human accomplishment;

– Promotion of inter-faith and intra-cultural dialogue.

E) In the legal field:

– Considering, where apropriate and on the basis of reciprocity, relaxation of visa regimes;

– Considering relaxation of rules and restrictions at border crossings for legitimate travelers on the basis of reciprocal arrangements;

– Promotion of law enforcement cooperation;

17. Through the Ä°stanbul Process, we reaffirm our commitment to strengthening regional security and cooperation, including for the purpose of building a secure and stable Afghanistan. To that end, we have decided to redouble and better coordinate our efforts through bilateral channels and existing multilateral frameworks and future meetings at Ministerial and technical level. The Istanbul Process will be developed and marked by consensus decision making of participating states.

18. In this regard, we will continue to exchange views on ways and means to implement our decisions.

19. As the first follow-up on the Ä°stanbul Conference, we have decided to meet again at Ministerial level in Kabul in June 2012.

20. The Kabul Ministerial meeting will be preceded by a preparatory meeting at technical level chaired by Afghanistan. To that effect, Afghanistan will circulate a concept paper by the end of January 2012, outlining the agenda of the meeting.

21. Having stated the above, we recognise that the challenge we intend to meet remains considerable. But, through these confidence building measures, we are aiming at a new mindset of cooperation in the region.

22. The ambitious objective of enhanced regional cooperation, with and around Afghanistan, will need to overcome many hurdles. However, the benefits for Afghanistan and its region will reward this ambition and be worth the endeavours.

23. The participants to the Ä°stanbul Conference wish to express their gratitude to the Republic of Turkey for the generous hospitality and commitment to promoting regional cooperation.

Adopted on 2 November 2011 by the ‘Heart of Asia’ Countries which consist of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of India, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the Russian Federation, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia the Republic of Tajikistan, the Republic of Turkey, Turkmenistan, and the United Arab Emirates.

Welcomed and supported by the Commonwealth of Australia, Canada, the Arab Republic of Egypt, the Republic of France, the Federal Republic of Germany, Republic of Italy, Japan, Norway, Republic of Poland, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States as well as the United Nations, Economic Cooperation Organization, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Shanghai Cooperation Organization, South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, Organization for Islamic Cooperation, the European Union, the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia.

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Statement by His Excellency Hamid Karzai President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Istanbul Conference for Afghanistan:Security & Cooperation at the Heart of Asia


2 November 2011

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Excellency President Abdullah Gul,

Excellencies Foreign Ministers,

Distinguished guests,

Thank you my brother, President Abdullah Gul, for hosting this conference and, as always, for the legendary hospitality provided to us here in Istanbul. This great city is not just the cradle of many civilisations, but also today a venue of unparalleled quality for promoting international cooperation.

As we meet, the effect of last week’s earthquake in the city of Van and the tragic loss of life it inflicted is on our minds. I take this

opportunity to express, once again, my heartfelt condolences to you, Mr President, and to my brothers and sisters in Turkey for the unfortunate losses.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Today, together with common friends and supporters from outside this region, we gather for the first time in a unique format – the Heart of Asia – which assembles all the major countries of the wider region surrounding Afghanistan, from China to Turkey, from Russia to India, and others in between. Indeed, apart from being yet another example of Turkey’s much valued leadership in strengthening regional cooperation, today’s meeting is also a significant milestone in Afghanistan’s long quest for regional harmony and cooperation.

The region has always been a crucial factor in Afghanistan’s vision for building a stable, prosperous and democratic future. Ten years ago, with help from the international community, we undertook to rebuild Afghanistan from the ruins of war, and laid the foundations of a free, pluralistic and democratic society – a society that is ruled by law and underpinned by just and enduring institutions. In this effort, we have achieved enormous progress, which is greater by comparison than any other period in our country’s history. Nonetheless, the most fervent desire of the Afghan people – which is to live in peace and security – has not yet been achieved.

Terrorist networks, by far the biggest threat to our security, continue to enjoy sanctuaries outside our borders from where they conduct their merciless campaign of bloodshed and destruction. Therefore, until we see a more concerted effort across the region to confront terrorism, particularly with a view to addressing the source and roots of the scourge, peace in Afghanistan will remain illusive.

Ladies and gentlemen,

2011 is a crucial year for Afghanistan as we expect to turn the corner on some of our greatest national priorities, including the Peace Process and the Transition of security responsibilities from the international forces to Afghan authority.

The Peace Process, until recently led by Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani, who is tragically no longer among us, has been a sincere effort, underpinned by our commitment to make the political process in the country more inclusive. As such, all Taliban and other militant leaders can join the Peace Process provided that they give up violence, break ties with Al Qaida, and return to peaceful lives under the Afghan Constitution. However, as recent setbacks have indicated, the Peace Process will not succeed unless we are able to get the top leadership of the Taliban, based in Pakistan, to join it.

Our hope is that, with help from our brothers in Pakistan, we will manage to wean away the Taliban leadership from some of the long-established networks of support they enjoy outside Afghanistan and integrate them into the Peace Process.

Another crucial national priority set in motion this year is the Transition Process, which will see the complete transfer of security responsibility from international forces to Afghans by the end of 2014. The first phase of Transition took place in July, and I expect to announce the second phase in the near future. With the implementation of the second phase, nearly fifty percent of Afghanistan’s population will come under the security umbrella provided by Afghanistan’s own national security institutions. Once completed, Transition will signify the achievement of the most important strategic goal shared by Afghans and our international partners, namely the emergence of a sovereign Afghanistan that is self-reliant, and is the peaceful home for all Afghans.

Transition, of course, is not limited to security. For Afghanistan to become truly self-reliant we will need a comprehensive economic transition, which will take a much longer time than the transition of security. Economic transition will require the continuation of the steadfast support of our international partners far beyond 2014.

In this context, we in Afghanistan look forward to a major international conference on Afghanistan, to be held in Bonn, Germany, next month. Marking the 10th anniversary of the Bonn Process of 2001, the Conference will be an opportunity to take stock of the major achievements that Afghanistan has realised over the past decade in partnership with the international community.

At the Bonn Conference, we will share our vision for the next ten years – it will be a vision of consolidating Afghanistan as a stable and democratic country with a prospering economy. And we will seek a commitment from our friends in the international community to continue to support us as we work towards that vision. We will call for a new paradigm of cooperation between Afghanistan and the international community – one that recognizes the sovereignty of Afghanistan and the centrality of the Afghan state as paramount.

Ladies and gentlemen,

With a view to the future, Afghanistan seeks to build greater confidence and stronger ties with the region.

True to our belief that Afghanistan can only develop and remain stable in a regional environment that is conducive to stability and growth, we will work to foster constructive engagement across the region and play our role in regional economic integration.

Last month, Afghanistan signed an agreement on strategic partnership with the Republic of India. This truly historic agreement will take the age-old relationship between the two countries to an even higher level in the interest of both nations as well as the region. The time-tested friendship and solidarity between Afghanistan and the Republic of Turkey is another source of confidence and support for my country. Indeed, our ever deepening friendship with India and Turkey is a model for how we seek to shape our future relationship with some of our key regional partners that are not only tied to us by cultural and historical bonds but are also extending an enormously constructive hand to the Afghan people today.

Pakistan and Iran are our two immediate neighbours with whom we have very deep cultural and demographic affinities. Both nations have hosted millions of Afghan refugees in their midst for over three decades – an act of generosity and benevolence we Afghans will never forget. Over the past ten years, our country’s relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran have deepened and expanded for which I am grateful to the Iranian leadership.

Our relationship with Pakistan too has evolved considerably and enormously. I have often called Pakistan and Afghanistan as conjoined twins. The mutual dependence of both countries in terms of security, as well as social and economic development, bears out this analogy. Yesterday, thanks to President Gul’s hospitality, I had fruitful discussions with my brother President Asif Ali Zardari about the vital importance of the profoundly close relations that Afghanistan and Pakistan need to have.

We are also looking to China and Russia as two major countries of the region and as major partners in the stability and development of Afghanistan as well as the whole region. China and Russia, as well as India and Turkey, have enormous sway at the global level and, as such, can be very influential in shaping a peaceful, friendly and economically prospering region. In addition, our relations with our immediate and near neighbours to the north – Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan – have grown strongly in the last few years where the potential for further expansion, in the interest of the region as a whole, is even greater.

We in Afghanistan attach great importance to the Middle East and are proud of our relations, in particular, with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt – three countries that are represented here today.

Our relations with the Middle East are not just anchored in religious and historical affinities, but also in our gratitude for the solidarity these countries have shown to Afghanistan over the years. In particular, I wish to recognize the personal commitment of Khadem ul Haramein Al Sharifein, His Majesty King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, to Afghanistan’s search for peace and security. I wish to reiterate the desire of the Afghan people to have His Majesty’s continued and much appreciated guidance and support.

I wish to emphasize that our regional vision, and our keen interest in deepening our relationship with regional partners, is in no way contradictory to our enduring partnerships with countries outside the region. We attach enormous importance to the Strategic Partnership we are currently negotiating with the United States and other partners, including the UK and the European Union, which we hope will guarantee Afghanistan’s security and stability, as well as assist our future economic development. Let me be very clear on this point: neither our Strategic Partnership with the United States, nor any other partnerships we will forge in the future, shall be a threat to our neighbours or any other country. We will never enter into any partnership that may pose a risk to our neighbours or jeopardise Afghanistan’s role as a peaceful, friendly and constructive member of the regional community.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Our today’s meeting in Istanbul is, indeed, a momentous regional gathering, which promises new horizons for regional cooperation, and where the real pull factor is the plethora of common challenges and opportunities. We all know well that the region we share has captured the world’s imagination for both desirable and undesirable reasons.

On the one hand, ours is a region that is blessed with unrivalled resources. Together, we are the custodians of a glorious heritage that underpins human advancement in the intellectual, spiritual, artistic and scientific realms. Today, the powerhouses of this region, notably China, India, Russia and Turkey, are driving the global economy. The future of an interconnected, just and more equitable world depends on the future of this region.

On the other hand, some of these opportunities may never be taken, nor much of our potential ever realized, unless we succeed in overcoming the enormous obstacles we face to legitimate interaction and co-operation. Terrorism is a menacing threat that does not just affect Afghanistan and Pakistan, but also other countries in our region, notably India, Turkey, China and Russia. The narcotics trade threatens the wellbeing of our nations.

As the frontline in the fight against terrorism and the global narcotics trade, Afghanistan has served as a bulwark to the common security of the region. Despite our enormous sacrifices, we are determined to continue to play this role.

To confront the common threats that endanger our security and peace, and to realize the potentials of regional economic cooperation that is so crucial for our common future, the region must come together in cooperation and solidarity to a degree that it has not yet achieved. We must boldly address the political differences that divide the region, and remove the deficit of trust and confidence that exists among some of us. Today, in Istanbul, we are coming together to subscribe to a new vision of regional cooperation, and agree to work together towards creating an atmosphere of true friendship and cooperation across the whole region.

For this vision of regional cooperation to succeed, the role of a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan is indispensable. Afghanistan can facilitate movement of goods and people across Asia. We can serve as a corridor of transit and trade. Today, I wish to invite Afghanistan’s fellow regional countries to see Afghanistan as an opportunity, and as a catalyst for advancing regional integration.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In calling our region the Heart of Asia, this Conference takes cue from one of the Muslim world’s most renowned poets and philosophers, Mohammad Iqbal Lahori, who said: “Asia is a body of water and soil, where the Afghan nation is the heart; its prosperity brings prosperity to Asia, and its decay brings decay to Asia”. The literal sense of Iqbal’s poem is as true as the wisdom in his analogy, and today it is borne out by history.

Thank you.

Opening Remarks by H.E. Dr. Zalmai Rassoul Minister of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan at the Istanbul Conference for Afghanistan:

Opening Remarks by H.E. Dr. Zalmai Rassoul

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan

At the

Istanbul Conference for Afghanistan:

Security and Cooperation in the Heart of Asia

2 November 2011


Distinguished Colleagues,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear brother Foreign Minister Davutoglu, please accept my sincerest condolences for last week’s tragic earthquake in the Province of Van that took so many lives and inflicted huge losses. We pray for a quick recovery for all those affected.

It’s a great pleasure to join you here today in welcoming our colleagues and friends from countries with whom we share our region. I wish to express heartfelt appreciations to the Government of Turkey for hosting today’s Conference for Afghanistan which focuses on “Security and Cooperation in the Heart of Asia”. Your personal efforts, Foreign Minister Davutoglu, have been crucial in shaping this important regional gathering for which I am immensely and genuinely grateful.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As mentioned in remarks by both His Excellency President Gul and His Excellency President Karzai, today’s gathering presents an important opportunity; an opportunity to broaden the horizons of regional cooperation for our mutual benefit.  We owe it to our peoples and their future to cooperate with each other so we can realize our true potentials and our children can enjoy a safer, more prosperous life.

Recognising how crucial regional cooperation is, it is a responsibility – a collective responsibility – we all have to do what we can in order to bring about an environment that is free from the perils of terrorism, extremism, narcotics, organized crime – these are the examples of the kind of common and real challenges we face as a region today.

Dear Colleagues,

You heard His Excellency President Karzai this morning describing the challenges that our country is facing today.  Indeed, over the past ten years, we have come a long way in making lives better for the Afghan people.  However, significant threats and challenges remain.  The region that surrounds Afghanistan has been a great supporter in our efforts, and remains a huge factor in our ability to overcome the challenges that remain.

Therefore, over the past decade, the Government of Afghanistan has put the task of building regional confidence and cooperation at the centre of our vision for a stable and prosperous Afghanistan.  The Kabul Declaration on Good-Neighbourly Relations of 22 December 2002 laid the foundations of Afghanistan’s new relationship in the region – a relationship that is based on respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity, peaceful co-existence, refraining from interference and respect for international law.

Over the past ten years, we have actively engaged in all regional organisations which have a role to play in strengthening regional cooperation in various fields – from our active participation in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) – which we are hoping to join as an observer country in the near future – to other regional organisations that deal with furthering cooperation in economic and other field, such as the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC).

There have been specific regional initiatives to help Afghanistan, such as the   Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA), which we value and are committed to maintain.  We are committed to exploring new and effective ideas that could be translated into workable strategies in the interest of regional economic integration.  In this respect, we welcome the New Silk Road initiative and look forward to a fruitful dialogue with our neighbours and regional partners.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Our gathering in Istanbul is a recognition that, building on our progress of the past ten years in terms of strengthening regional cooperation, we must take bolder and stronger steps in order to make regional cooperation more effective. As far as Afghanistan is concerned, we view the Istanbul Conference as one of the most important opportunities for Afghanistan and our regional partners to reaffirm our mutual commitments to cooperation, and chart a way forward for building greater confidence and understanding across the region.

Together with our friends and supporters from outside this region, our gathering today is taking place in a unique format – the Heart of Asia – which brings together all the major countries of the wider region surrounding Afghanistan, from South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East.   Given the increasing interdependence and commonality of interests and concerns across the wider region, it is important to broaden the geographical, as well as substantive, focus of our cooperation at the regional level.


The Afghan Government aims for the Istanbul Conference to be a successful turning point with a tangible outcome that helps build a common regional vision for peace and stability.  The Conference will be a significant milestone to recognize Afghanistan’s long quest and desire for stability, as well as the region’s growing need for confidence building and cooperation against the common challenges we face, notably terrorism, extremism, the drug trade, and obstacles to legitimate interaction and movement, to name but a few.

I am satisfied with the huge amount of intensive preparatory work that has gone into making this Conference a success.  Indeed, it has been a truly participatory process where the views and concerns of all the neighbours and fellow regional countries have been taken into account.  From the various preparatory meetings, including Dubai, Oslo and Kabul, to the visits by Afghan and Turkish officials to major capitals of the region, this has been a very meaningful dialogue.

I thank the Republic of Turkey again for the leadership role they have in strengthening regional cooperation and, in particular, in making this important conference the turning point it should be.  We Afghans are honoured and blessed to have a friend like Turkey.

I also express deep gratitude and appreciation to Afghanistan’s other neighbours and near neighbours for supporting the vision of regional cooperation, and for taking an active part in this process.  Your presence here today is not only a testimony to your friendship and solidarity with Afghanistan, but also your commitment to strengthening and deepening cooperation at the regional level.

May I also thank all the supporter countries who are so strongly represented here today.  Indeed, without support and solidarity from friends and partners from outside the region, our region will not be able to make the vision of regional cooperation and integration a reality.  In particular, I wish to say a sincere thank you to the Kingdom of Norway for being a great friend and supporter of regional cooperation in the Heart of Asia.  In particular, the role that Norway played in facilitating dialogue in the run up to this conference is highly appreciated.

The role of the United Nations has been extremely useful.  We are all members of the UN and, as such, the role of this global entity is one major common bond that ties us across the region.  In particular, the contributions from the Secretary General’s Special Representative to Afghanistan, Ambassador Staffan de Mistura, have been substantial and commendable.

Dear Colleagues,

For regional cooperation to be meaningful, it must deliver results.  For all the goodwill and desire that exist across our region for strengthening regional cooperation, the progress we are making in tackling our common challenges is relatively modest.  Therefore, today’s conference must be the beginning of a process that involves tangible steps and credible results.  I appeal to Afghanistan’s neighbours and fellow regional countries to rally behind the Istanbul Undertaking we are hoping to adopt today.

In conclusion, I thank all of Afghanistan’s partners in the international community, its neighbours and partners in this Heart of Asia region for your continued support and solidarity with Afghanistan.  In particular, I thank you all for attending this historical conference and contributing to its success.

Thank you for your attention and I invite you far an active participation in today’s meeting.

Permanent Mission of Afghanistan