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Statement By H.E. Dr. Zalmai Rassoul, Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic Of Afghanistan at the NATO Foreign and Defense Ministers Meeting Brussels

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Sunday, April 22, 2012
Kabul (BNA)  Statement By H.E. Dr. Zalmai Rassoul, Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic Of Afghanistan
at the NATO Foreign and Defense Ministers Meeting Brussels.

Secretary General Rasmussen,
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I thank you Secretary General Rasmussen for holding today’s very timely and important meeting. It’s a privilege for me and my delegation to be here among Afghanistan’s friends and allies. I would like to express a warm welcome to H.E. Foreign Minister of Japan, and our good friend, Special Representative Jan Kubiš. And thank you especially for including a discussion on the situation in Afghanistan and our common plans for the future, including the long-term financing of the Afghan National Security Forces, and the long-term Afghan-NATO strategic partnership.

And, Secretary General, please allow me, especially in light of the April 15 terrorist attacks in Kabul and other Afghan cities, to thank you and to thank every NATO and ISAF nation around this table, for helping us train a professional and capable Afghan national security force that is increasingly able to independently secure and defend Afghanistan against security threats.
We Afghans have a historic and inherent warrior ethos. Combined with the training, equipping and mentoring support that you’ve provided, especially over the past few years, our forces were able to not only subdue the terrorists in these attacks effectively and in a timely manner, but also safely rescue dozens of civilians held hostage by them for hours.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

We’re meeting at a critical juncture in Afghanistan’s march towards long-lasting security, stability and prosperity for the Afghan people, and in our evolving yet stronger-than-ever long-term security, political and economic partnership.

Since the last time I met with you in this town last December, right after the historic International Afghanistan Conference in Bonn, we have maintained our focus on the success of the Transition process, continued our efforts in the framework of an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process, advanced regional cooperation and moved forward on improving good governance as part of our mutual commitments with our international partners.

I will let my colleague General Wardak elaborate on the steady progress of the Transition process, which at this point, through its two implemented phases, has put Afghan soldiers in control of providing security for at least fifty percent of the Afghan population.

Parallel to Transition, and our relentless fight against those terrorists who’re bent on destroying Afghanistan and disturbing the security and progress of the Afghan people, we’ve continued to pursue different avenues, at the domestic, regional and international level, towards a political solution to the war in Afghanistan with those willing to embrace an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process. The Afghanistan Peace and Integration Program has succeeded in returning over 4000 former anti-government combatants to their communities and villages across the country. We’re engaging our neighbors, especially Pakistan, to garner stronger, more result-oriented support for our efforts as part of the peace process.

We’ve always welcomed support from other friendly countries in the region to the peace process. In this connection, I visited Doha earlier this month at the invitation of the Qatari government. I can report to you that we’re today closer to the opening of an address in Qatar for the purpose of facilitating direct negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban and other armed opposition groups than at any other point in the past. We hope to finalize an understanding on this in Kabul soon.

In all of these efforts, we’ve clarified and underscored the central importance of the principles of Afghan leadership and ownership in this process with all involved. For, peace will not come out of efforts that are not led and owned by the Afghan government and people. And we’ve also underlined the non-negotiable principles and necessary outcomes for an inclusive, dignified, meaningful peace process: respect for the Afghan Constitution, especially its protections for the rights and freedoms of all Afghan citizens, especially Afghan women; freedom of the press; consolidation of our young democracy; renunciation of violence, and severance of all ties with international terrorists. On the specific topic of the rights of Afghan women, let me reiterate once again – clearly and emphatically – that we consider the advancement of Afghan women’s rights and their participation in all walks of life over the past decade one of our proudest, most tangible, and most significant achievements in the new Afghanistan. I’m making this point to once again underline His Excellency President Karzai and the Afghan government’s unshakable commitment to the rights of Afghan women under the Afghan Constitution and Afghanistan’s relevant international obligations. We’ll continue to defend and promote the rights and freedoms of this equal half of our society; not bargain them away in any process or deal.

Ladies and Gentlemen:
We’ve also moved ahead with our vision of strengthening confidence and cooperation in our region. Our preparations for the important follow-up Ministerial meeting of the Heart of Asia region countries in Kabul this June as part of the Istanbul Process launched last November are in full swing. Indeed, the second preparatory meeting under this process was held in Ashgabat just yesterday. We hope that in Kabul we can adopt a set of concrete confidence building measures in order to gradually translate the commitments of the Istanbul Process into concrete actions and outcomes.

The upcoming NATO Summit in Chicago, of course, represents new momentum and carries crucial importance for our long-term security and political partnership with the alliance and its member states.

We look forward to mutually-determined decisions on the next stages of Transition to ensure its ultimate and irreversible success by the end of 2014, on the long-term financing of the Afghan National Security Forces, including Afghanistan’s minimum $500-million contribution to the overall long-term annual budget, so that Afghan forces can independently secure and defend their country beyond 2014 and on strengthening the enduring strategic partnership between Afghanistan and NATO.

In addition to the long-term strategic partnerships we signed with India last year and France, Italy and the United Kingdom early this year, we’ve made steady and positive progress in our negotiations with the United States over the signing of a bilateral long-term strategic partnership agreement. With the recent signing of two separate Memoranda of Understanding over the transfer of detention facilities to Afghan control and the Afganization of special operations, including night operations, we can – and do – now look forward to the signing of this important long-term strategic partnership agreement between our two countries soon.

Ladies and Gentlemen:
Another of our important mutual commitments at Bonn was to ensure substantial and significant aid and support to Afghanistan throughout the Transformation Decade between 2015 and 2025, and to flesh out that commitment at an international conference in Tokyo in July. The full implementation of commitments made at the Kabul Conference in 2010 and Bonn in 2011 will help Afghanistan meet its needs for security, stability, economic growth and social development.

Afghanistan is serious about its commitment made during the Kabul Conference and recently during the Bonn Conference to redouble more efforts to fight corruption, strengthen good governance, continue to promote human rights, in particular the God-given rights of Afghan women, fight illegal narcotics and score greater economic opportunities for our people.

Ladies and Gentlemen:
Put together, this is an ambitious and challenging agenda. But I have no doubt that, together, our shared determination and resolve is more than equal to the task of building a secure, stable and prosperous Afghanistan through and beyond the successful completion of the transition process.

I’d be remiss if I did not repeat the heartfelt and eternal gratitude of the Afghan people for the truly tremendous sacrifices, in blood and in treasure, that our friends and partners have borne with us over the past decade in advancing the cause of security, justice, development and democracy in Afghanistan.

Thank you!

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