UNITED NATIONS
New York - 26 September 2018

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ

Madame President,
Excellencies heads-of-state and governments,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Allow me to start by extending my congratulations to you Madame President and wishing the 73rd UNGA presidency much success. Let me also assure you that working with UN member states and the UN family, we look forward to advancing the seven priorities set in the UNGA73 agenda. From this podium, I would like to provide the General Assembly with the latest in regard to the situation in Afghanistan - the gains, opportunities and challenges that my nation faces at this critical juncture - in addition to our views on other key global challenges.

The record of accomplishments by this institution over the past 73 years demonstrates that wherever it might be, and whoever it might impact, we cannot escape the ripple effects of, or delink ourselves from the global, national, communal and human connectivities that bind us, whether in relation to the environment, climate, international finance or even the cyber and technology arenas. It is therefore critically important to go beyond just words, duplication of efforts or ineffective models that get inter-mingled and, at times, spur countervailing or lopsided interests.

As Albert Einstein once said: WE CANNOT SOLVE OUR PROBLEMS WITH THE SAME LEVEL OF THINKING THAT CREATED THEM.

Whether we are addressing hunger, acute poverty, climate change, overpopulation, terrorism, conflict, displacement, inequality or organized crime, we all share and own bits and pieces of the problems, in the same manner that we collectively benefit or learn from the solutions. As a result, we need to explore new means and identify new tools for reaching a wider consensus through more thoughtful dialogue and result-oriented action. 

Henceforth, to this day, we do not have a globally and officially acceptable definition for “terrorism,” a nefarious phenomenon used by rogue or politically-connected, criminal, state or non-state actors, using religious, ideological, economic or psychological cover to disrupt the status-quo, upend the global and nation-state order and reach a particular set of radical goals through the sheer use of indiscriminate violence that no religion in its undistorted form condones.

While we are determined to fight with vigor newer versions of terror presenting themselves as remnants of DAESH in a few pockets inside Afghanistan, we are still struggling to fully comprehend the role that terror breeding grounds sanctuaries and funding pools – in many cases tied to criminal and illicit drug networks – play in the use and spread of terrorism. We are still trying to figure out how to render terrorism impotent as a policy tool used by some to further specific agendas.


For example, Afghanistan has for almost a quarter of a century experienced the loss of tens of thousands of innocent lives and major infrastructural damage; It is partly because of geography, and partly because of short-sighted strategies and regional agendas that have generated an umbilical reliance on non-state actors used to keep others unstable through violence and the promotion of extremism. 

It has resulted in complacency and impunity. Thus, we need to do more and go beyond the ineffective norms to bring about change and accountability.

We have asked our neighboring states, especially Pakistan, to help targeted societies - including their own - deal with this menace. We are looking forward to the timely and effective implementation of the recently agreed Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APPAPS).  All stakeholders need to agree to treat all shades of terrorism as one, shut down the breeding grounds and sanctuaries and to prosecute or repatriate the violators. The response thus far has been sparse and insufficient. We are working with all countries near and afar to bring about better results.

On that basis, Afghanistan stands for the balanced implementation of all four pillars of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy; and non-compliance must be seriously addressed as well. My country has also begun a process of structured cooperation with the UN Office on Counter-Terrorism and we are supportive of regional initiatives through forums that focus on such priority concerns. We will continue to engage and work with regional stakeholders in this regard.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

Since we last met, Afghanistan has turned a page and made unprecedented overtures to the Taliban to be part of a credible Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process that could lead to a just and comprehensive political settlement through talks and reconciliation.

On several occasions, we have pledged our commitment to unconditional intra-Afghan dialogue and the restoration of all rights and privileges for those who agree to end the cycle of violence. We even announced a unilateral ceasefire earlier this year that was agreed to by the Taliban for a three-day period and gave the Afghans a glimpse of what peace can look and feel like.

Unfortunately, extraneous agendas prevented us to replicate a second ceasefire more recently. But we will not rest, and we have vowed to pursue what is right and attainable.

I want to express my sincere thanks to all nations, especially the United States, other concerned parties in our region, including the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Indonesia both have recently hosted an Ulema gathering, to the UN and others for encouraging all sides to set the stage for a process that would lead to talks and a just and comprehensive negotiated settlement.
Looking at the 25 year-long record, a pre-requisite for talks is to learn from the history of peace engagements. We see that a dual approach is necessary to make sure that we win the peace but also protect and preserve our people’s gains and hard-earned achievements; They include the constitutional order, freedom of expression, human and gender rights and creating economic opportunities.

I want to pause here and pay tribute to Afghans who continue to suffer as a result of violence, as well as to our valiant national security forces for their steadfast defense of our nation and for standing tall and strong at the frontline against terrorism.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

Two important popular tests are ahead in Afghanistan: Parliamentary elections slated for next month and presidential elections for next year. Drawing on past experiences, both President Ashraf Ghani and I agree that political legitimacy is derived from the will of the people. While we pursue peace efforts and deal with security and governance challenges, we are reminded that, eventually, we need to make sure that, given our circumstances, the electoral process is trust-worthy and that the electorate can agree to a fairly credible and legitimate outcome.

Regardless of who wins or loses, Afghanistan’s future rests on nurturing national consensus that provides unity of purpose aimed at peace and political stability deriving legitimacy from foundations that are pluralistic, inclusive and democratic.

In this regard, I want to thank the United Nations – UNAMA in particular - the European Union and all other contributors and donors for helping us move the process forward.
Furthermore, we look forward to the upcoming Geneva Ministerial on Afghanistan in November. It will be an excellent occasion to evaluate our work and the path ahead with the donors since we last met. 

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

On the humanitarian front, Afghanistan also faces the daunting tasks associated with an impending drought, refugee resettlement and internal displacement caused by climactic and natural abnormalities, food insecurity and security threats. 

Estimated to impact two-third of the country and the livelihoods of more than four million people, with the potential to force a million more into migration, we are in dire to attend to their humanitarian needs. I want to thank the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, other UN agencies, NGOs and donors for their contributions and hard work on the ground, however, we urge the international community to fully fund Afghanistan’s Humanitarian Response Plan 2018-2021.

Excellencies, dear colleagues,

The peaceful settlement of disputes and protection of oppressed peoples are core principles of the UN Charter, which benefit the promotion and preservation of international peace and security. As a war-ravaged country, we sympathize and feel for the people of Syria, Yemen and other victimized communities around the world, in the same manner that we stand for the basic rights to protection of the Rohingya population in Myanmar. Afghanistan stands in full support of all UN and other international efforts aimed at achieving a just, comprehensive and lasting settlement to the question of Palestine, including a UN General Assembly call for an international protection mechanism for civilians.

Moreover, the UN’s refined peace-building activities should provide due focus on the principle of national ownership; implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; and promoting greater coherence among relevant UN entities and agencies and development. 

In regard to the reform agenda, we stand in full support of efforts aimed at strengthening the role of the UN in the context of the Secretary General’s initiatives. The creation of the Department of Political and Peace-building Affairs is a welcome move, as is the formation of the Office of Counter-Terrorism. We are looking forward to the implementation of the resolution adopted on the Repositioning of UN Development System and believe it will enhance our achievements in the formation of One-UN in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan’s active role within the UN system is currently more pronounced than ever before. Our chairmanship of the Third Committee during the 73rd session comes at a crucial time as we have aimed to initiate and adopted several resolutions on shared themes that include victims of terrorism and threats of IEDs, in addition to refugee and migrant issues, rights of children, women’s empowerment, human rights, social development, and other relevant Committee agenda items.

Furthermore, Afghanistan’s election to the UN Human Rights Council for the first time in 2017 marked our commitment and showcased our achievements in this regard. We remain a party to major international protocols and conventions on human rights. I am pleased to inform that Afghanistan has recently passed a set of national legislation prohibiting cruel and degrading treatment, endorsed the Law Inhibiting Torture, on Combating Human and Migrants Trafficking, Criminal Procedures Code, and on Prohibition of Children Recruitment in our Security Forces. On the latter, we are working closely with the office of Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

I want to leave this podium today by presenting a bold concept – also recently mentioned by President Ghani - that can form a new visionary paradigm for my country and our region as we strive to end four decades of conflict and enter a new phase free of violence and forced implementation of stagnant ideas and spoiler habits.

It is a concept that dwells on Afghanistan over the next few years becoming a platform of cordiality for regional and hemispheric cooperation, in sharp contrast to being pushed and pulled toward becoming an area of instability and confrontation.

Our people, who pose no danger to anyone, are demanding a fundamental change where they can play a constructive and collaborative role across boundaries, and help turn their country into a roundabout of people, goods, services, communications, cooperation and ideas across the wider region.

I believe that with your help we can turn this concept into reality. We hope to further engage our regional partners in helping us bring this vision to fruition. I hope that this Assembly and all concerned member states play their supportive and positive role to put an end to years of agony and open a new path leading to durable peace, stability and prosperity.

Thank you.

Kabul: - The Honorable First Lady Rula Ghani met with Sri Lankan Ambassador to Afghanistan Gagan Bulathsingala and Afghan Ambassador-Designate to Sri Lanka M. Ashraf Haidari at the ARG-Presidential Palace on September 25, 2018. The First Lady briefly discussed the health-care and education needs of the Afghan people, especially those of Afghan women and girls in provinces with least access to such basic services. Ambassador Multiangle pointed out a recent offer by the Sri Lankan government to train some of Afghanistan’s nurses based on a MOU signed between the two countries.

The First Lady thanked the Ambassador and highlighted Afghanistan’s acute need for training Afghan nurses on such critically needed specializations as OB-GYN, cardiology, cancer, dialysis, trauma surgery, and related areas. She instructed her technical advisers on health-care and education to meet with the Sri Lankan Ambassador to discuss with him further the specific capacity-needs of Afghan nurses, and to stay in touch with the Afghan Ambassador to Sri Lanka for follow-up in Colombo.

Education Adviser to the First Lady Marjan Mateen welcomed Sri Lankan scholarship assistance so far provided to qualified Afghan students. She noted the need for scholarships in the fields of medicine, engineering, information and technology, geology, agriculture and agribusiness, and related hard-sciences fields to help meet Afghan capacity needs.

Moreover, the two sides briefly discussed Afghanistan’s peace process and noted that Afghanistan could learn relevant lessons from the reintegration programs of Sri Lanka, which have focused on addressing the socio-economic and psycho-social needs of the women and girls of the former combatants’ households. Mr. Haidari said that he would meet with the relevant authorities of Sri Lanka to explore how Afghanistan and Sri Lanka could cooperate in this critical area.

The Office of the First Lady offered their full support to help facilitate contacts between health-care and education institutions of the two countries, in collaboration with the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

***

The United Nations, New York, September 24, 2018

Assistant Secretary General Miroslav Jenca,

Ambassador Yamamoto, ​

​Deputy Finance Minister Payenda,

Distinguished Colleagues,

Ladies and Gentlemen,    

I am pleased to be in the presence of so many friends and partners, as we meet to discuss the agenda and key objectives of the International Geneva Conference to be held in November. We look forward to a productive session, which will help ensure a successful outcome. Let me begin by thanking ​Ambassador Yamamoto​, his team at ​UNAMA and our colleagues at the ​Ministries of Finance and Foreign Affairs in Kabul for all their efforts in the preparation for that important gathering.

I also want to thank all of you for taking the time to attend this meeting. It is reflective of your continued support and partnership with Afghanistan, for which we are grateful. The numerous countries and organizations assembled in this room have been part of a difficult, yet strategic journey that began in 2001 to promote global peace and security, by virtue of a stable and prosperous Afghanistan.

The Geneva Conference will mark another milestone in our partnership with the international community. It will be an opportunity for us to highlight achievements with respect to obligations assumed at the Brussels Conference in strengthening the effectiveness of our State institutions; enhancing service delivery for our people; but above all, in working to advance the rule of law as an important factor for our overall stability.

On the other hand, we will get a picture of the extent to which our international partners adjusted the nature of assistance delivery so that its impact is more visible and tangible in helping to improve the lives of our people. That meant taking measures to align assistance programs with our national priority programs, under the Afghan National Peace and Development Framework (ANPDF).

The situation in Afghanistan has evolved over the past several years. So too has the capacity and role of the Afghan Government in assuming leadership of the security, economic and governance pillars. This was the essence of the Kabul Process, initiated in 2011 to implement these three transitions. The broader significance of the Geneva Conference relates to the start of a new phase in our partnership.

In that regard, we will subscribe to a new set of commitments, under the Geneva Mutual Accountability Framework, to be implemented on a reciprocal basis. We believe the new phase of cooperation between Afghanistan and the international community, including regional partners, will be of special importance in the context of our long-term partnership with the international community, by virtue of our goal to become a Self-Reliant nation by the end of the Transformation Decade.

Our success in this endeavor will be the ultimate test of all that we have done together over the past 17 years for the security and stability of Afghanistan, the region and the world at large. I will touch on the key elements of our discussions in Geneva. Deputy Finance Minister Payenda, Ambassador Yamamoto and Deputy Minister Raz will provide a more detailed overview of various aspects of the Conference, including preparations thus far; the Conference agenda; expected outcome; final communiqué and the Geneva Mutual Accountability Framework.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As representatives of many partner countries and organizations, all of you are well aware of our strong resolve to achieve a peaceful solution to the current conflict in our country. The temporary cease-fire with the Taliban was only a glimpse of hope, but a development nonetheless. Yet, we are far from our intended objective. Geneva is an opportunity to integrate regional and international support behind our peace plan, presented in Kabul in February.

We welcome the support of all partners for our peace efforts through various initiatives, under the overarching Umbrella of the Kabul Process. We expect all such support to conform with the principle of Afghan ownership and leadership ​of the ​Peace Process. Here again, I want to reiterate that an inclusive peace process, enjoying the overwhelming support of all Afghans is imperative for achieving the desired result.

By the same token, parallel to our peace efforts, we will continue to defend our territorial integrity and sovereignty against all terrorist and extremist groups, which are targeting our civilian population and seeking to prevent our security and stability.

Distinguished participants,

Geneva will also be about reorienting the nature of our collaboration with international partners to advance the implementation of our self-reliance and reform agenda. While progress was made against the benchmarks of the SMAF, new measures under the new accountability framework will benefit two key objectives:

First - generating greater coherence and efficiency of international aid; and

Second - reinforcing our progress in implementing our national peace and development framework, and national priority programs. Needless to say, building on past reform efforts will remain a key priority for the remainder of the Transformation Decade. In this context, among other areas of reform, sustained focus on ensuring free, fair, inclusive and transparent elections is a fundamental need.

The Conference will also take stock of advances in the area of regional connectivity, which is among the most notable achievements of the National Unity Government over the past four years. Economic ventures such as the CASA 1000, TAPI, and Five Nation Railway Project, which were once just a concept, are now turning into reality.

Air corridors developed with India, Kazakhstan and most recently Turkey have already led to a substantial increase in the volume of exports abroad. We are in the process of operationalizing additional air corridors with other regional countries. We also have high expectations of the Lapis Lazuli project, which, once fully operationalized, will mark another major milestone in the region’s economic integration.

These initiatives are part of our broader efforts to achieve the full potential of economic opportunities available in the wider region. In early December, the 8th Ministerial Meeting of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process will be held in Turkey. That will provide us another opportunity to follow-up on Geneva commitments related to specific economic regional projects.

The event will also feature an international investment road-show that will attract new investments by the private sector and business communities. That said, we look forward to renewed commitments of the international community to further elevate the economic cooperation agenda to new heights, under our Afghan-led RECCA and Heart of Asia Processes and other initiatives.

Let me also seize this opportunity to thank all partners for their ​proactive engagement in the ​negotiation process of the ​Geneva Conference Communiqué​.

We look forward to a final document that ​will clearly reflect​ our ​enhanced partnership​ in the way forward. I want to close by conveying our gratitude to the United Nations for rallying international support behind Afghanistan. Our meeting today in this building is another step in that endeavor.

We thank all partners, member-states and organizations alike, for standing beside us in our continuing journey for lasting peace, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan.

With that, I have the pleasure to give the floor to Deputy Minister Payada.

Thank You.

Kabul: - Ambassador-Designate M. Ashraf Haidari along with Sri Lankan Ambassador to Afghanistan Gagan Bulathsingala met with Economic Advisor to the President Ajmal Ahmady at the Presidential Palace – ARG on September 24, 2018. They discussed Afghanistan’s regional connectivity efforts via air. Mr. Ahmady briefed the Ambassadors on Afghanistan’s air corridors initiative, which was launched in July 2017. Since then, Afghanistan’s bilateral trade with a number of countries in the region has expanded.

Some 170 cargo flights have transported over 3,000 tons of Afghan products to various destinations through the air corridors to cities in India, Russia, China, Central Asia, and the Middle East. He pointed out that Afghanistan will soon export its products to over 20 cities across Europe, beginning with Helsinki, Finland.

Ambassador Bulathsingala discussed his country’s interest in the Afghan air corridors initiative, helping Afghanistan further integrate with the South Asian markets. Mr. Haidari pointed out the Afghanistan-Sri Lankan Air Service Agreement, under which Afghan and Sri Lankan airlines could initiate to operate passenger and cargo flights between Kabul and Colombo via Mumbai-India, including one or two-way direct flights between Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.

The two sides will continue discussing and pursuing this economic issue of mutual interest, as well as cooperation in the banking, agriculture-agribusiness, and irrigation sectors.

***

Kabul: - Ambassador-Designate M. Ashraf Haidari met last Wednesday with Ambassador of Sri Lanka to Afghanistan Gagan Bulathsinghala, who congratulated Mr. Haidari on his recent appointment as Ambassador of Afghanistan to Sri Lanka. The two sides reviewed the status of Afghanistan-Sri Lanka bilateral relations, which have continued to expand since the two countries established direct diplomatic ties in 2013 and 2014. Mr. Haidari thanked Ambassador Bulathsinghala for his continued hard efforts to follow up on the implementation of several bilateral cooperation agreements and MOUs signed between Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.

They cover such important issues of mutual interest as economy, education, science and technology; aviation services; employment of Sri Lankan skilled labor; higher education; nursing education and capacity-building; sports; and cultural affairs. Moreover, they discussed the status of two additional agreements and one MOU to be signed, covering trade and investment promotion and protection and cooperation between Kabul and Colombo Universities.

They also explored the many business and tourism opportunities in both countries and discussed the importance of early implementation of the aviation services agreement, allowing trade between the two countries through Afghanistan’s air corridors initiatives. Mr. Haidari firmly committed to collaborating with Ambassador Bulathsinghala and his colleagues in Colombo to further deepen Afghan-Sri Lankan relations during his term of appointment.

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