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Statement By H.E. Dr. Zalmai Rassoul, Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan At The NATO-ISAF Foreign Ministers Meeting

 Brussels, December 8, 2011

 Secretary General Rasmussen,

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,


I thank you Secretary General Rasmussen for your initiative and for your leadership in driving NATO’s critical mission in Afghanistan.  I wish you good health and a speedy recovery.


It is a privilege to be here among Afghanistan’s friends and partners, who have done so much for the cause of peace, stability and democracy in Afghanistan over the past decade.


Dear Colleagues,

A decade ago we jointly started our journey to fight terrorism and make the world a safer place for all of us. We have come a long way in this shared journey.


We are grateful to you all, our NATO partners, for helping us recover from decades of destruction.  With your help, we have had history-making achievements in Afghanistan, something we can all be deservedly proud of. Let me just say that we wouldn’t be where we are today without the selfless sacrifices of your soldiers, the hard work of your diplomats and development officials, and your generous assistance to the reconstruction of Afghanistan. We look forward to broadening and deepening our cooperation and partnership with NATO.


Just three days ago in Bonn, we adopted a blueprint for broadening and deepening our partnership with the International Community during Afghanistan’s 2015-2024 Transformation Decade. This is a partnership based on mutual commitments: the assumption of increasing responsibilities and implementation of reforms, including anti-corruption measures, by the Afghan government, and, on the part of the international community, a credible, strong long-term commitment of support and assistance to Afghanistan for at least a decade beyond Transition. I would like to take the opportunity here to thank Germany and especially Foreign Minister Westerwelle for Germany’s unparalleled arrangements for this conference.


Since the Kabul Conference, the Government of Afghanistan has taken specific measures to improve governance, fight corruption and improve the delivery of basic services to the population. To help enhance the capacity of government institutions, and increase public confidence, we need our partners’ cooperation in phasing out all structures that undermine the authority of the government or duplicate the functions of Afghan state institutions.


The Bonn Conference outcome also gives us several follow-up steps to translate our mutual commitments into concrete actions – an economic conference in Tokyo next July, a regional cooperation follow-up ministerial conference in Kabul in June, a regional economic cooperation conference on Afghanistan in Tajikistan, and, of course, the NATO Chicago Summit next May. Among other things, in Chicago we hope to discuss plans for the long-term training, equipping and sustainability of our national security forces with our NATO allies. So we look forward to working with you in the months ahead to define our plans to those ends.


At the same time, the finalization of the NATO Strategic Plan on Afghanistan paves the way for our effective and long-term partnership beyond 2014.


Dear Colleagues,

The successful first phase of Transition this past summer was a milestone for us. The second phase, announced last week, will put Afghan soldiers and police officers in charge of the security of nearly fifty percent of the Afghan population.


The Transition agenda overall is undoubtedly ambitious. Its full and irreversible success will continue to require a comprehensive and responsible approach, and extraordinary effort from both Afghans and our partners in the international community to succeed.


We must strengthen our efforts to bolster the quality and capabilities of Afghan national security institutions in all areas so that they become a more confident, professional, effective, and self-reliant force.


Afghanistan is committed to fighting terrorism, as well as illicit drugs, which finances terrorism and criminalizes our economy. As we continue the fight against international terrorism in our region, we need to pay particular attention to two crucial issues. First, we must realize that terrorism primarily comes from safe-havens beyond our borders, where terrorists find sanctuary, training, logistical support, and strategic guidance for attacks against Afghan and international forces, and civilian targets. Unless we deal with this regional dimension of the international terrorist threat, our gains in Afghanistan, and global peace and security will always be in jeopardy. Two, we need to maintain our utmost focus on protecting Afghan civilians. In this specific regard, I welcome and appreciate General Allen’s recent guidance to ISAF forces on protecting civilians. Our attention to avoiding civilian casualties is already shifting the popular narrative in Afghanistan against the terrorists who have no regard for innocent civilians, as so grotesquely and cowardly illustrated by the terrorist attacks in Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif, Kandahar and Helmand over the past three days.


Transition is interlinked with the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process, something that remains the surest path to a dignified, inclusive and durable peace for all Afghans. Despite continued attacks and the assassination of Professor Rabbani, head of the High Peace Council, the Afghan people want the peace process to continue. And it will. The recent Traditional Loya Jirga in Kabul, which brought together more than 2,200 representatives from across the country expressed their full support to the peace process.


In the area of economic cooperation, we would like to work closely with the international community to shift development efforts toward supporting major infrastructure projects and creating real employment for the Afghan people, particularly in the agriculture, energy, mining, and education sectors.


Regional cooperation remains crucial to the vision of stability and progress in Afghanistan. Through a number of initiatives, Afghanistan is reclaiming our historic role as a trade, transport and connectivity hub, and most importantly, as a catalyst for wider cooperation in the ‘Heart of Asia’ region. The Istanbul Process launched last month on a promising path of taking concrete steps towards confidence building and cooperation in our region.


Parallel to our sincere efforts to increase and strengthen meaningful regional cooperation to the benefit of all countries in the region, we are working with our key allies and partners in the international community on signing long-term strategic partnerships. This is something the people of Afghanistan are firmly behind; they expressed as much through their resounding endorsement of a long-term strategic partnership with the United States of America at the recent loya jirga in Kabul. The Afghan government attaches utmost importance and value to this partnership that will be built on the existing strong foundations of friendship, cooperation and shared sacrifices our two nations have borne in the fight against terrorism and in the struggle for a peaceful, secure, democratic Afghanistan.


In addition to the strategic partnership we signed with India in October, we are also signing or negotiating long-term, strategic partnerships with other partners and allies, including the United Kingdom, the European Union, France, Australia, Italy and Germany. All of these partnerships will help us preserve and consolidate our gains, and ensure that Afghanistan never again falls victim to the sort of terrorism and disorder that will harm us, the rest of the region and the wider world.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Afghanistan is entering a new phase of partnership with the international community, including NATO, as a sovereign, independent country. With the Transition process now in full momentum, we are at a critical stage in Afghanistan’s recovery, stabilization and development. As we pursue the full success of the Transition process, pursue the reforms we know are necessary, including the fight against corruption, and enter our country’s Decade of Transformation, we will continue to rely on your steadfast, long-term support, friendship and assistance.


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.

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.”

Permanent Mission of Afghanistan