Colombo: - Foreign Minister Mohammed Haneef Atmar and his Sri Lankan counterpart Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena have recently exchanged warm congratulatory messages on the 62nd Anniversary of the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations between Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. This followed the exchange of friendly messages between President Ashraf Ghani and Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa on November 02 when the two sides celebrated the 62nd Anniversary.

“Our shared interests with regards to economic and security cooperation in the regional and global contexts should help open new avenues of results-oriented partnerships between our two Governments and societies with a shared cultural heritage. I am confident that in close collaboration with Your Excellency, our bilateral ties will further grow, mutually benefiting both sides,” said Foreign Minister Atmar in his congratulatory message.

“I am pleased to note that the bilateral relations between our two countries have expanded significantly since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1958. Significant progress has been made in promoting economic, trade, education, health, defense, and cultural cooperation, as well as political dialogue, in order to foster long-term development of bilateral relations,” said Foreign Minister Gunawardena in his message.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa tweeted to say: “Today, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan celebrate 62 years of establishing diplomatic relations. The leadership of both nations are committed to continue and further strengthen our friendship and bilateral relationship to mutually benefit both our nations.”

In response, President Ashraf Ghani tweeted, “Thank you PM Rajapaksa, I would also like to congratulate you and the people of Sri Lanka on this auspicious occasion. Afghanistan is committed to a long-lasting relationship. We have a shared heritage, and our regional connectivity programs will build on that in the near future.”

In his statement on the occasion, Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari elaborated: “As we extend our sincere congratulations to the Government and people of Sri Lanka on 62 years of our growing bilateral relations, my colleagues and I look forward to working with all stakeholders on both sides to advance our two countries’ many shared interests and to further deepen people-to-people ties between our two nations. In doing so, the Embassy of Afghanistan in Colombo remains at the 24/7 service of all our Sri Lankan customers, whom we kindly invite to visit our website and follow our social media pages to stay updated on all developments in our growing bilateral relationship, friendship, and partnerships.”

Click HERE to read the Ambassador’s full statement.

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Related news-story: President Ghani and Prime Minister Rajapaksa Celebrate 62 Years of Afghanistan-Sri Lanka Diplomatic Relations

Colombo: - Since the signing of the cooperation MOU between the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Investment (ACCI) and the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC), major business executives have been calling on Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari.

Today, the Ambassador met with Mr. Gamini Jayawardane, Value Group Plantations Director, discussing their interest in exporting Ceylon Tea to meet Afghanistan's demand as a major tea-drinking nation. They also discussed the Value Group's other investment interests in renewal energy, tourism, transport and logistics, education and training, as well as information technology.

Ambassador Haidari presented to the Director the Afghanistan-Sri Lanka Friendship Plaque, highlighting the key role the private sector can play in fostering deeper ties between the two countries. The Ambassador looks forward to facilitating this and other Sri Lankan firms' business and investment visits to Afghanistan, as well as their B-to-B meetings with the ACCI and their counterpart businesses in the country.

Visit our daily updated website for the latest business and investment news and developments. 

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Related news-story: Afghanistan and Sri Lanka Chambers of Commerce Sign Historic MOU to Expand Bilateral Trade and Investment

Colombo: - Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari had a very productive Q&A discussion at the Bandaranaike Center for International Studies (BCIS), exchanging views with the leadership--BMICH CEO Sunil Dissanayake and BCIS Deputy Director George Cooke--and the scholars of BMICH-BCIS. He highlighted the importance of the 2020 Afghanistan Geneva Conference, as they discussed key global strategic issues with implications for Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, as well as security and development across the promising region of South Asia.

In this light, the Ambassador discussed the fast growing Afghanistan-Sri Lanka relations, and the many opportunities for further expanding bilateral partnerships across the political, socioeconomic, security and defense, as well as cultural spheres. In this regard, he recalled his recent article, discussing where Afghanistan stands in its ties with Sri Lanka and the region, promoting cooperation against confrontation, which for too long has rendered SAARC ineffective in executing its mandate for the shared benefit of all its member-states.

Moreover, they discussed the situation in Afghanistan, which Ambassador Haidari's recent TV interview highlights, including US troop withdrawal, the incoming President-elect Joe Biden Administration's Afghanistan policy, as well as their implications for regional stability and international security.

Ambassador Haidari and the Afghan Embassy in Colombo look forward to tangible cooperation with the leadership and scholars of BMICH-BCIS. This includes opportunities for signing cooperation MOUs between BMICH-BCIS and leading think-tanks in Afghanistan, which the Ambassador looks forward to facilitating.

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Related news-story: Historic MOU Signed by Afghanistan and Sri Lanka Think Tanks on Knowledge Exchange and Research Cooperation

Colombo: - Click HERE to watch Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari's wide-ranging interview with the StratNews-Global, discussing the following key foreign policy issues of interest and concern to Afghanistan with far-reaching implications for regional stability and international security, as well as the need for the international community to stay the course in the country:

1. The US troop withdrawal announcement: Preparedness by the ANDSF leading over 95% of all counter-terrorism operations in defense of Afghanistan and to contribute to regional stability and global peace

2. The US bipartisan support for a conditions-based, well-coordinated, responsible approach to troop withdrawal so Afghanistan doesn't have to revisit the 1990s and the US the tragedy of 9/11

3. President-elect Joe Biden's Afghanistan policy to be measured and based on sound military advice and his own knowledge of the key drivers of insecurity in the region

4. The stalled Afghan peace process due to escalation of violence by Taliban and their failure to deliver on their commitments to a notable reduction in violence, COVID19 humanitarian and permanent ceasefires, and a tangible dialogue to reach a sustainable political settlement within Afghanistan's Constitutional framework

5. The Geneva Conference and international conditions (based on mutual accountability) for continued aid to Afghanistan

6. Lessons to be learned from Sri Lanka's war-to-peace-transition experience and their decisiveness in the fight against terrorism

7. Trade and transit connectivity and regional economic cooperation as the corner-stone of the Afghan foreign policy with win-win goals

8. Expansion of trade and people-to-people ties between Afghanistan and Sri Lanka: achievements and challenges

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Related: Read Ambassador Haidari's recent article on: Afghanistan–Sri Lanka: A Growing Partnership for Shared Peace and Prosperity in South Asia

The Diplomat Magazine 

Afghanistan’s Progress Was Made Possible With International Support

It is vital that aid resources remain sufficient over the coming years to sustain these gains.

By Ashraf Ghani
 
November 23, 2020
 
Since 2001, the international community’s financial support has been the bedrock of progress in Afghanistan — delivering some of the fastest improvements in development outcomes in the world, with tangible impacts on the lives of millions. Today, as Afghanistan takes steps toward a peace agreement with the Taliban, it is apparent that continued support will be central to moving the development needle and ensuring peace in the years to come.
 
Against many key indicators, development outcomes in Afghanistan have shown some of the fastest progress in the world since 2001. The rate of access to electricity has increased from 8 percent to more than 30 percent; maternal mortality rates declined threefold between 2000 and 2015; and for every 1,000 births, 142 more children lived to the age of five in 2018 than they did in 2007. This progress can be attributed to development aid.
 
Furthermore, international support has helped us implement programs that increased access to education for women and reduced infant mortality rates. The fertility rate has declined from an average of 7.3 in 2002 to 4.6 children per woman. Over 8 million more Afghan children are in school, with the ratio of girls to boys enrolled in secondary school going up from 1:5 in 2003 to 1:2 in 2017. Reflecting expanded education and economic opportunities, a new generation of Afghan women are actively shaping Afghanistan’s future, playing key roles in government and the private sector. Today, while there is still some way to go, women represent a quarter of all civil servants and hold 16 percent of senior management roles.
 
Support provided through the multi-donor Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF) and the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA) has been critical to achieving these numbers and success stories. Today, at this crossroads, it is vital that aid resources remain sufficient over the coming years to sustain these gains. World Bank analysis shows that with stable support over the medium-term, Afghanistan can accelerate growth, maintain development outcomes, and make real progress toward self-sufficiency.
 
But any precipitous reduction in grant support over the next few years will lead to major setbacks in public services, economic activity, and living standards. This is important not only for development, but also for peace. A political settlement with the Taliban is within reach. But it is difficult to see how peace can be effectively sustained amid deteriorating incomes, declining services, and increasing unemployment.
 
Afghanistan’s management of the crisis posed by COVID-19 has saved many lives and prevented a major economic setback from happening. Still, like in many other countries, our economy has been hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis. Lockdown measures to reduce the spread of disease have disrupted commerce; border closures have disrupted trade. Remittances from Afghans living abroad have declined as global economic conditions have worsened. With our economy expected to shrink by at least 5 percent this year, government finances are now under enormous pressure, and up to 6 million Afghans may have been driven into poverty.
 
Hence, our need is significant. With a new fiscal year on the horizon, we will need to make some difficult choices and tradeoffs to remedy shortfalls and demands from the COVID-19 recovery. We recently oversaw the development of a program-based national budget for the next fiscal year. The new national budget is transparent and accountable and cuts unnecessary expenditures with more appropriations for programs that have actual impact on the lives of Afghan people. At this point, any funding scale-backs could put this recovery in jeopardy and leave us in an even more precarious situation and impedes our progress toward meeting the Sustainable Development Goals.
 
As Afghans we are determined to become self-reliant. Among other measures, we are redoubling efforts to stamp out corruption through institutional and process reforms and establishment of a new overarching anti-corruption authority. Through long-term efforts to strengthen public finance systems, government revenues reached $2.7 billion in 2019 – about the average level for an economy of this size and shape. With increasing revenue and a growing economy, aid dependence has been declining over time. Grant flows have rapidly declined from around 100 percent of the economy in 2011 to around 43 percent today.
 
We would like to assure the international community of our intention to uphold this trajectory in our development progress. As our economy continues to grow and our revenues improve, we will be able to finance core services and infrastructure with much reduced external support. But self-reliance will take time. Grants continue to finance around 75 percent of total public spending and around half of budget spending, which is inflated by a large security sector dedicated to countering insurgency and threats of international terrorism. International aid pays for teachers’ salaries, road construction, the purchase of medicines, delivery of health services, and many other basic services.
 
We therefore appeal to the international community to protect the valuable investments and gains already made, notably by successfully completing the ongoing ARTF and supplemental IDA replenishment processes. Sustained investment will ensure that Afghanistan can continue its path out of fragility and prevent hard-won gains from being erased in the crucial years ahead.
 
Ashraf Ghani is the President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
 
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Colombo:- Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari had a very productive meeting with Major General Milinda Peiris, the Vice Chancellor of General Sir John Kotelawala Defense University, following early suggestion by H.E. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to meet the KDU Vice Chancellor. They discussed a wide range of issues of mutual interest, including military training and education cooperation.

The Ambassador thanked the Vice Chancellor for the annual scholarships, which his prestigious University has so far extended to Afghan cadets. In light of Afghanistan's capacity needs, they explored opportunities for expanding the KDU scholarship program, enabling more Afghan cadets to pursue bachelor's and master's degrees in the hard and social sciences, including medicine, nursing, engineering, peace and conflict studies with coursework on conflict resolution, peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding.

Both sides look forward to mutually beneficial cooperation in the weeks and months to come.

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Colombo: - The pledging ministerial 2020 Afghanistan Conference on Peace, Prosperity and Self-Reliance meets today and tomorrow and is co-hosted by the Governments of Afghanistan and Finland with the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. The quadrennial pledging conference is an important opportunity for Afghanistan and the international community to commit to common objectives for promoting sustainable development, prosperity, and peace in the country.

A central aim of the conference is to determine shared development objectives and commitments for the period 2021–24 for the Afghan government and the international community. The shared development objectives will guide development cooperation and provide financial support for Afghanistan. In addition to the pledges of financial support, a new development framework, a joint political declaration and a new aid architecture supporting Afghanistan’s development needs and priorities are the anticipated outcomes of the conference.

“We will gather virtually tomorrow for the 2020 Geneva Conference on Afghanistan. We aim to realize the decades’ long hopes of all Afghans for a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan. The outcomes of this pledging conference will heavily influence the country’s future development and our path towards self-reliance and peace,” President Ashraf Ghani said yesterday.

“The 2020 Afghanistan Conference is a shared opportunity for the whole international community—including our partners, allies, and neighbors—to continue supporting Afghanistan against the intertwined threats of terrorism, organized crime, poverty, climate change, and the global COVID-19 pandemic. Such support will help ensure regional stability and global peace, while enabling the suffering people of Afghanistan to further consolidate our hard-earned gains of the past 19 years towards the achievement of a sustainable and dignified peace in Afghanistan,” commented Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari.

The conference is bringing together some 100 countries, international organizations, and agencies, as well as civil society representatives. It was last held in 2016 in Brussels and in Tokyo in 2012. Due to the serious COVID-19 situation in Switzerland, the conference takes place virtually, with the Palais des Nations in Geneva remaining as the hub for all logistics.

The conference is fully webcast via webtv.un.org

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Related: Interview by Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari on the continued importnace of international security and development aid to Afghanistan 

Nuwara Eliya: As part of his routine provincial and local engagements, Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari visited Nuwara Eliya and met with members of the Tamil community, who celebrated the Diwali festival this past Saturday. The Ambassador expressed his heartfelt congratulations to the Tamil community on the festival and told them that Afghanistan’s Hindu community too celebrates the magnificent festival of light, which he wished to bring the youthful nations of South Asia shared peace, joy, and prosperity.

Moreover, Ambassador Haidari met with the Honorable Member of Parliament Akandhan Velusami Radhakrishnan, who represents Nuwara Eliya in the Sri Lankan Parliament. They reviewed the status of growing Afghanistan-Sri Lanka bilateral relations, highlighting the need to further deepen people-to-people ties through business and investment, tourism, and cultural cooperation.

The Ambassador informed the Honorable Radhakrishnan of the recent signing of a cooperation MOU between the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce and the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Investment, discussing Afghanistan’s virgin markets and encouraging Sri Lankan investors to make a move and invest in the country’s highly profitable sectors. In this regard, they discussed the key export products of Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, as the Ambassador encouraged Sri Lanka’s major tea exporters to explore numerous export opportunities in Afghanistan, which consumes large quantities of imported tea.

In addition, they discussed the security situation in Afghanistan, which could easily stabilize, if the Taliban gave genuine peace a chance. Ambassador Haidari took note of the significant progress the Afghan people had made since the tragedy of 9/11, which re-engaged the international community in Afghanistan. But he noted that over a dozen terrorist networks, including the Taliban and Al Qaeda, with safe havens in Afghanistan’s neighborhood continued spoiling the Afghan peace process, striving to undo the hard-earned gains of the Afghan people.

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Related news-story: Afghanistan and Sri Lanka Chambers of Commerce Sign Historic MOU to Expand Bilateral Trade and Investment

 

Colombo: - On Afghanistan’s National Day of Mourning, Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari met with his counterparts from Italy, Turkey, India, and Iran, as well as Sri Lankan Minister of State for Regional Cooperation Tharaka Balasuriya and other visiting diplomats. This followed their signing of the book of condolence for the victims of the heinous terrorist attack on Kabul University this past Monday.

In his meetings, Ambassador Haidari noted that Afghanistan has been a victim of ongoing interference and aggression from outside, including state sponsorship of terrorism, which continues to destabilize Afghanistan with a youthful, resilient, and enterprising population. He added that there are over a dozen terrorist groups, including Al Qaeda and ISIS, operating under the Taliban umbrella with safe havens in Afghanistan’s immediate neighborhood. Daily terrorist attacks, including that of Monday, carried out by these groups over the past 19 years have cost Afghanistan in direct and indirect ways, while undermining regional stability and international security.

That is why, he said, Afghanistan has strengthened and emphasizes regional consensus for resolving the imposed war through a negotiated political settlement, one that preserves the Islamic Republic, including Afghans’ hard-earned democratic gains of the past 19 years. Hence, he said that Afghanistan has pursued a path to peace through a negotiated settlement with the Taliban, who have so far faltered and failed to engage with the Islamic Republic negotiating team constructively. Instead, they have escalated violence in much of Afghanistan, daily killing and maiming civilians, including the innocent Kabul University students.

“If the Taliban chose the path of peace by shedding foreign influence and control, we could easily achieve lasting peace in Afghanistan,” Ambassador Haidari told the visiting diplomats.

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Related news-story: Colombo Diplomatic Community Strongly Condemns Kabul University Terrorist Attack

Colombo: - The Dean of the Diplomatic Corps in Colombo, Ambassador Al Sheikh Jumah Hamdan Hassan Al Shehhi, sent the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan a very thoughtful note of condolence and sympathy, in which he noted: “On behalf of the Diplomatic Corps in Colombo, we would like to express our deepest condolences on the deadly terror attack on Kabul University that led to the death and injury of many innocent people on Monday. We strongly condemn such barbaric and unjustifiable act against innocent lives.”

Moreover, the Ambassadors of Turkey, Iran, India, and Italy, as well as senior diplomats from the United States and Russia thoughtfully visited the Embassy to sign the book of condolence, while the Ambassadors of Qatar, Vietnam, Cuba, Malaysia, Kuwait, Australia, Germany, Egypt, Libya, and Maldives have thoughtfully sent the Embassy messages of condolence on the loss of innocent students in the heinous terrorist attack on Kabul University on November 2, 2020. They all unequivocally condemned the deadly terrorist attack, assuring Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari of their countries’ continued support for the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan’s relentless efforts to achieve dignified and sustainable peace. As of this writing, the head of the Intenrational Organization for Migration (IOM) has written the Embassy, while more messages are expected to come in, as COVID-19 lockdown measures in Colombo prevented many from making it in person on Afghanistan's daylong national day of mourning.

“Terrorists and those that support them are not just the enemies of the Afghan people but those of the whole humanity. Together, we must fight them and never waiver in our resolve to defeat and eliminate them, thereby ensuring a safer world for the whole international community,” said Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari in gratitude to his counterparts and colleagues in the diplomatic community.

At the same time, the friendly Government and people of Sri Lanka issued a statement noting:

"His Excellency Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the President, the Government, and the People of Sri Lanka are deeply shocked and grieved by the despicable brutal attack on the University of Kabul, killing and wounding dozens of innocent scholars, who were peacefully engaged in their academic work. The Government of Sri Lanka utterly denunciates these criminal acts, especially attacks on innocent children, students and educators, and reject all forms of violence, which aim to undermine security, stability, and completely contravene all basic human values and principles. The Government of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka conveys its heartfelt profound condolences to the Government and the people of Afghanistan, and the bereaved families of all the victims, and wish for the speedy recovery of those injured."

"These words of sincere and fraternal support from His Excellency President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the people of Sri Lanka demonstrate our shared resolve in the fight against humanity's common enemy: terrorists and their entire enabling infrastructure in the region and throughout the world. Last year, we witnessed the tragic terrorist attack in Sri Lanka, which took so many innocent lives. President Ashraf Ghani was the first world leader to condemn that act of barbarism, which has no place in Islam, a faith of peace, tolerance, co-existence, and moderation. Our noble faith stands utterly opposed to all forms of extremism, terror, and violence, targeting innocents, be them in Afghanistan or anywhere in the world," Ambassador Haidari commented. 

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