Tuesday, September 27, 2016

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

Excellencies

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.

Excellencies,

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.

Foreign Minister Rassoul Addresses the UN Security Council on the Debate on Afghanistan


Security concerns, regional cooperation and Afghan sovereignty all featured prominently this Thursday morning in the United Nations Security Council’s quarterly debate on the Situation in Afghanistan. As Head of Afghanistan’s delegation at the 66th United Nations General Assembly, H.E. Dr. Zalmai Rassoul, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan, addressed the Council. The underlying message from H.E. Dr. Rassoul can be summed up in his quote from President Karzai’s statement to the General Assembly last week, highlighting the goal of “a sovereign Afghanistan that is self-reliant, and the peaceful home of all Afghans; an Afghanistan that is at peace, and lives in peace with the rest of the world.”

Preceding the statement, the Security Council heard a briefing from Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) Mr. Staffan de Mistura. The SRSG presented the findings of the Secretary General’s report on Afghanistan, released earlier this week.

Today’s Security Council debate comes in the wake of the tragic assassination of the Chairman of the Afghan High Peace Council, former President Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani, in Kabul last Tuesday (20 September). This brutal attack drew widespread condemnation from all speakers in the debate, as well as an outpouring of condolences and praise for Prof. Rabbani’s work, with India for instance saying that “Tragically, the forces of terror and hatred have silenced yet another powerful voice of reason and peace in Afghanistan.”

“Despite this national loss, our reconciliation process will continue,” H.E. Dr. Rassoul said, reaffirming Afghanistan’s commitment to the peace, reconciliation and reintegration process which is the cornerstone of the political solution to the conflict.

The assassination also put the spotlight on the security situation in Afghanistan and especially in Kabul. States expressed concerns over the growing numbers of civilian casualties, and H.E. Dr. Rassoul and many others stressed the urgent need to address the problem of terrorist sanctuaries and safe-havens beyond Afghanistan’s borders. However, despite these concerns and the spate of recent high-profile attacks and assassinations, most states also praised the growing capabilities of the Afghan National Security Forces. “In spite of all these incidents,” as the SRSG succinctly put it, “transition goes forward.”

Speakers underscored the importance of the upcoming conference in Bonn scheduled for December, as well as the comprehensive UNAMA mandate review, for all aspects of the transition process. Speakers stressed the need for Afghan leadership and ownership not just of security responsibilities, but also of socio-economic development efforts, at national and sub-national levels.

“Only then will the right services be delivered to the right people in the right way,” explained the European Union’s representative, H.E. Mr. Pedro Serrano. In this light, the Afghan-led New Silk Road initiative and other regional cooperation endeavours received praise from the USA, Russia and others. Commenting on the upcoming ‘Heart of Asia’ conference in Istanbul in November, the SRSG stressed that “Afghanistan should be the catalyst, not the subject, at this conference”.

In addition to H.E. Dr. Rassoul and the SRSG, the Security Council heard statements from all fifteen members as well as Canada, Turkey, Australia, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan and the European Union. Overall, the mood of the debate was one of cautious optimism and praise for progress thus far, along with determination to see the transition process successfully through, to 2014 and beyond. In H.E. Dr. Rassoul’s words, “We are still not completely out of the woods… [but] together with the support of the international community, we will succeed.”

The Situation in Afghanistan

Statement by His Excellency Dr. Zalmai Rassoul

Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

At the Security Council debate on The Situation in Afghanistan

Mr. President,

I wish to begin by congratulating you and the Government of Lebanon on assuming the Presidency of the Council for the month of September. I also thank my good friend Special Representative Staffan De Mistura for his briefing, and presentation of the Secretary General’s report on Afghanistan.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to address this Council once again.  Today’s meeting takes place against the backdrop of yet another recent tragedy in Afghanistan. A little over a week ago, the enemies of peace in Afghanistan martyred the Chairman of the High Peace Council (HPC), and former Afghan President, Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani. Professor Rabbani will be remembered for his distinguished service for the cause of peace in Afghanistan.  But I want to assure the Council that, despite this national loss, our reconciliation process will continue. On behalf of the Afghan people and Government, I convey gratitude and appreciation for the outpouring of condolences and support received from around the world.

Mr. President,
This year is of particular importance to Afghanistan. Firstly, it marks ten years since the end of the rule of the Taliban, culminating in the opening of a new chapter in our modern history; defined by a concerted effort to achieve what has eluded us Afghans for far too long:  peace, stability and prosperity.  Over the past decade, we have come a long way in our joint efforts, and have much to show for our progress: in building our state-institutions, in ensuring our people with essential services; in enabling democracy to take root; and in up-holding fundamental rights of all our citizens.

Secondly, this year we also embarked on Transition, an ambitious process by which we Afghans will take full responsibility for the security of our country by the end of 2014. As President Karzai’s statement to the General Assembly last week underlined, “With the completion of the Transition process, we Afghans and our international partners will achieve the most strategic goal of our ten-year long partnership: the emergence of a sovereign Afghanistan that is self-reliant, and the peaceful home of all Afghans; an Afghanistan that is at peace, and lives in peace with the rest of the world.”

In addition to solid Afghan national resolve, the success of the transition process also depends on the continued support of the international community, most importantly in building the capacity of our national security institutions.

Alongside transition of security responsibilities, we are focused on doing what is necessary to implement the economic pillar of the transition process. This will be a more difficult task, requiring more time, and the sustained and long-term engagement of our international partners during and after the transition process.

In this regard, we are determined to maximize the potential offered by our natural resources to strengthen our economy. Furthermore, we have prioritized attracting foreign investments, and building our infrastructure. Such efforts will enable us to play our key role in broadening, deepening and strengthening regional economic integration, by reviving our historic place as the land-bridge between Central Asia, South Asia and the Middle East. In that connection, we are pleased that the New Silk Road initiative has gained momentum; and we welcome the constructive discussion of last week’s ministerial meeting here in New York, which we co-chaired with Germany and the United States.

Mr. President,

Despite our efforts to stabilize our country, Afghans still suffer from an endless campaign of terror carried out by Afghanistan’s enemies. Over the past months, terrorists launched sophisticated attacks, including the raid on the Inter-Continental Hotel; the attacks on the NATO compound and US Embassy in Kabul; and a chain of targeted assassinations of a number of Afghanistan’s prominent and high-profile national figures.

The continued spate of attacks, which originate from terrorist sanctuaries and safe-havens beyond our borders, has generated an unprecedented level of anger and frustration among a wide-spectrum of Afghan society. Mr. President, let me underline, once again, our repeated call for a definitive end to these sanctuaries that are not only harming Afghans, but also destabilizing the region as a whole.

Mr. President,

To help end the conflict, and meet the demands and aspirations of the Afghan people for a durable, dignified and inclusive peace, we will work to bring back to social, economic and political life all members of the armed opposition willing to renounce violence, sever ties with terrorist groups, and accept our constitution, including respect for human rights, women’s rights in particular.  Despite the assassination of Professor Rabbani, which intended to disrupt the peace process, the High Peace Council (HPC) will continue its mandate for peace and reconciliation. For reconciliation to succeed, we must have the support of regional and international partners. And I highlight, in this connection, the importance of a result-oriented role by the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

At the same time, we wish to remind the Council that we are committed to defeating those bent on the destruction and destabilization of our country at all cost.

Mr. President,

We have an important political calendar ahead of us. We look forward to the Istanbul and Bonn conferences, scheduled for November and December of this year.

In Istanbul, together with countries making up the Heart of Asia, and other international partners, we will focus on defining a new vision for regional peace and development. We will do this by soliciting concrete commitments to enhance confidence building, security and political cooperation centered around Afghanistan. For, Mr. President, a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan is not only an Afghan need – such an Afghanistan is an absolute precondition for peace, security and prosperity in the region.

And in Bonn, we will brief the international community on our achievements over the past decade with a specific focus on transition, reconciliation, and regional cooperation. We will also share our vision for the ten years after transition on consolidating our stability, democracy and economic development. Above all, at Bonn, we will call upon the international community for continued assistance beyond 2014.

Indeed, Afghanistan is already working with our friends and allies on mapping out our enduring partnerships, including the United States, the European Union and NATO. These partnerships will help guarantee our security, stability and future economic development.

The United Nations has played a very important role in our achievements thus far, for which we remain grateful. On the way forward, this role must be adjusted to reinforce Afghan sovereignty. We welcome all efforts to ensure a more integrated, effective and one UN approach, and look forward to the joint, comprehensive review of UNAMA’s mandate. In that connection, let me thank the Secretary General once again for authorizing this joint review.

Mr. President,

In conclusion, I thank all of Afghanistan’s partners in the international community for standing beside us in solidarity as we strive to strengthen the foundations of peace, democracy and development we have laid down in Afghanistan. Over the past decade, we have come a long way in our joint efforts, something we can all be proud of. But we are still not completely out of the woods.  We in Afghanistan are convinced that together with the support of the international community we will succeed in realizing our common vision of a peaceful, stable and democratic Afghanistan; a country that is self-reliant and a factor for regional and global peace and cooperation.

I Thank You!