Colombo: - Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari called on the Sri Lankan Minister of Industry and Commerce Rashid Bathiudeen on March 15, 2019. They reviewed the status of bilateral trade and investment, discussing numerous opportunities on both sides, which they agreed, must be ceased by investors of the two countries as soon as possible. The Ambassador briefed the Minister on his recent meetings with the Sri Lankan Chamber of Commerce officials, discussing ways to accelerate business-to-business interactions between the two countries.
Moreover, Ambassador Haidari submitted to Minister Bathiudeen a draft of a pending Agreement on Trade and Investment Promotion and Protection to be finalized and signed by the Minister and his Afghan counterpart Minister of Commerce and Industry Ajmal Ahmady. Once signed, the two sides will quickly be able to exchange trade delegations to meet in B-to-B meetings to explore each other's markets for investment opportunities.
They also discussed the importance of extending Afghanistan's air-corridors to Sri Lanka, exporting to the country Afghansitan's choice horticultural products, fresh and dried, as well as carpets and precious and semi-precious stones.
For additional information, read a recent interview by Ambassador Haidari with The Daily News on "Lanka Yet To Tap Huge Opportunities from Afghanistan." Also read a news report on "Kabul Calls to Revive Trade with Sri Lanka," detailing the discussion between the Ambassador and Minister Bathiudeen.
Colombo: - Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari called on the Honorable Ranil Wickremesinghe, the Prime Minsiter of Sri Lanka, on March 14, 2019. The Ambassador conveyed to the Honorable Prime Minister the warm greetings of H.E. President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and H.E. Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, following which they discussed a range of issues of bilateral interest aimed at further expanding multifaceted ties between Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. Ambassador Haidari briefed the Honorable Prime Minister on the overall situation in Afghanistan, including the imposed war, the peace process, as well as Afghanistan's numerous democratic achievements of the past 17 years, which need to be consolidated and sustained.
"There are many areas where Sri Lanka and Afghanistan should cooperate further, and I strongly encourage any efforts and steps to be taken towards that direction," commented the Honorable Prime Minister Wickremesinghe. "Since presenting my credentials to His Excellency President Maithripala Sirisena last November, we have striven to help implement the key objectives of several bilateral MOUs and agreements, and I look forward to your continued, strong support to see our bilteral ties further grow in the coming years," Ambassador Haidari told the Honorable Prime Minister.
Moreoever, they discussed the status of bilateral trade, as Ambassador Haidari highlighted numerous business and investment opportunities in Afghanistan, which he said he had recently discussed with the Sri Lankan Chambers of Commerce. In addition, they discussed opportunities for cooperation to learn from Sri Lanka's war-to-peace-transition experience, inviting a delegation from the Afghanistan High Peace Council to visit Colombo for meetings on Sri Lanka's ongoing peacebuilding programs with a focus on reconciliation and reintegration.
Ambassador Haidari also highlighted the importance of creating a youth exchange program whereby Afghan and Sri Lankan youth engage in mutually beneficial activies in arts, cinema, and policy debates with relevance to sustainable development goals with a focus on addressing the common needs of youth in South Asia.
Ambassador Haidari Discusses Need for Direct Kabul-Colombo Flight with Minister of Transport & Civil Aviation
Ambassador Haidari highlighted the promotion and development of land, air and sea connectivity as one of the top priorities of President Ashraf Ghani. Minister Ranatunga welcomed the air corridors initiative of Afghanistan, fostering regional connectivity for trade and investment. They also explored opportunities for technical cooperation, including training programs for the Afghan personnel of the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation.
As a former cricket player and the 1996 Cricket World Cup winning captain for Sri Lanka, Minister Ranatunga praised the rise of the Afghan cricketers, which Ambassador Haidari appreciated and sought the Minister's advice on building closer cricket ties between the Afghan and Sri Lankan cricket teams with a focus on capacity-building at the junior level.
Colombo: - Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari met today with Mr. Nihal Ranasinghe, the Controller-General of the Sri Lankan Department of Immigration and Emigration. This meeting followed a bilateral meeting on March 12, 2019 by the Ambassador with the Internal and Home Affairs of Sri Laknka, the Honorable Wajira Abeywardana, with whom Ambassador Haidari discussed a few Sri Lanka visa restrictions for Afghan tourists and business-people. Both sides agreed that it was in the best interests of Afghanistan and Sri Lanka to remove such restrictions, which would automatically help promote and enhance bilateral tourism and trade between the two friendly nations.
As member-states of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and extended neighbors in South Asia, both Afghanistan and Sri Lanka desire to further expand and deepen their bilateral relations, in accordance with the agreements and MOUs of cooperation in various spheres, which the two countries have so far signed since 2013. In this light and under the SAARC mandate, both countries particularly emphasize the importance of increased people-to-people contacts through tourism, trade, business and investment.
Therefore, Mr. Ranasinghe made a firm commitment to keeping the two basic requirements by Afghan travelers to submit along with their passport details flight and hotel bookings, while negating the need for a bank statement, since most Afghans either lack access to banks or don’t have a bank account. He advised that all Afghans traveling to Sri Lanka apply to get their ETA visa from the following Sri Lanka government website:
This same website has a list of all ETA processing fees posted, which can be accessed at the following link:
A tourist visa with a double entry for 30 days costs $20 only, while a business visa with a multiple entry for 30 days costs $30. These fees are discounted for citizens of all member-states of SAARC, including Afghanistan. Afghan applicants should avoid using middlemen websites, which charge higher fees, which includes service or commission charges.
Moreover, in addition to the ETA visa, the Controller-General agreed to work with the Embassy of Afghanistan in Colombo to extend visa-upon-arrival to all Afghan visitors with appropriate legal travel documents, which include a valid passport and prior hotel booking in Sri Lanka. Ambassador Haidari will up to ensure that this service available to other international tourists will also be extended to Afghans soon.
Both sides agreed that the starting of a direct flight between Kabul and Colombo will help promote and enhance people-to-people ties between Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. Last year, only more than 900 Afghans visited Sri Lanka, while this number will see a dramatic rise once a direct flight begins operating between the two countries. In the same vein, bilateral trade via air will increase, as Afghanistan is already exporting goods to many countries through the air-corridors established over the past two years.
Colombo: - Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari met with the Minister of Internal and Home Affairs of Sri Lanka Wajira Abeywardana on March 12, 2019. They discussed bilateral cooperation in mutual legal assistance, immigration and visas, counter-narcotics, as well as special law enforcement operations.
The Ambassador noted that more Afghans would visit Sri Lanka for tourism, medical tourism, education and business, if visa restrictions were addressed. Last year, 900 Afghans visited Sri Lanka, while 718 in 2017. The Minister offered to ease visa restrictions, helping bolster people-to-people ties between Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. Afghanistan already reciprocates this, granting Sri Lankans easy tourist and multiple business visas.
Ambassador Haidari welcomed the Minister's support and encouraged exchange of leadership and technical delegations in areas of mutual interest and concern. First Secretary Munir Ghiasy accompanied the Ambassador.
Ambassador Haidari Meets with the Sri Lankan Minister of Telecommunications, Foreign Employment and Sports
The Ambassador invited the Minister to consider a visit to Afghanistan, meeting his counterparts. They also discussed cooperation opportunities in sports, particularly cricket, golfing, rugby, as well as football. Moreover, they agreed that the Afghan telecommunications sector would particularly benefit from Sri Lanka's competitive expertise, commercial experience, and reforms needed to enhance the quality of telecommunications services.
Ambassador Haidari also noted the opportunity for two-way exchange of labor, with Afghanistan exporting its surplus unskilled labor to work in Sri Lanka's booming construction sector.
STATEMENT BY H.E. Dr. Hamdullah Mohib
National Security Advisor of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
Security Council Debate on the Situation in Afghanistan
March 11, 2019
(Please check against delivery)
بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم
At the outset let me offer my deep condolences on behalf of the people and Government of Afghanistan for the recent tragic air crash of Ethiopian Airlines which resulted in the loss of many lives, including of UN personnel.
Thank you for convening today’s meeting on the situation in Afghanistan. It is an honor for me to represent my country today, in my first address to the UN Security Council. I would like to congratulate France for assuming presidency of the Council, and thank Secretary General Antonio Guterres for his report. We also recognize SRSG Ambassador Tadamichi Yamamoto for his leadership of the UN’s work in Afghanistan. I also recognize Ms. Storai Tapesh, Deputy Director of Aghan Women’s Network, who joined us from Kabul via video today.
As we approach the extension of UNAMA’s mandate this week, I would like to acknowledge the UN’s strategic engagement and support for Afghanistan’s stability. The UN has a supportive role to play in working with the Afghan government and people to bring peace.
Today I will share with you an update on where we are, and the road ahead towards peace. To understand our approach to peace, you have to first understand the many new realities in Afghanistan today.
First of all, Afghanistan has undergone an era of social transformation — 75% of our population are under the age of 35, have grown up in a democracy, and have a different set of expectations and principles than their parents and grandparents’ generations. Our generation was born in war, and grew up in conflict or exile. We yearn for peace, and wish for peace to complement what we have built over the past 18 years – not reverse it. We must safeguard our future.
Millions of Afghans have benefited from the best of national and international education opportunities, and members of this generation are now in positions of leadership and senior management.
We have also experienced the transformation of our female citizens from victims of institutionalized discrimination under the Taliban regime, to active, empowered, engaged contributors to all spheres of society and politics. Women also collectively play a vital role in our economic growth and national security. I would like to congratulate my colleague Ambassador Adela Raz for presenting her credentials last week to Secretary General Guterres and becoming the first Afghan women to hold this post. Ambassador Raz, as a child, studied in a secret school during the Taliban regime—she symbolizes the transformation women and girls have fought to achieve over the past 18 years.
Against the backdrop of these two social transformations, President Ghani introduced the Decade of Transformation when he took office in 2014—a comprehensive, whole-of-government reform agenda to implement rule of law, tackle corruption systemically, implement more efficient and effective national development programs, and increase economic growth and revenue collection. We are moving the country toward self-reliance. It is a reform package designed to meet the demands of the new generation of Afghans: for fair, clean, merit-based governance that is focused on the needs of the citizen, not the pockets of the political elite.
Five years into the Decade of Transformation, we have accomplished a tremendous amount, despite competing priorities of war, elections, and drought, and also despite considerable resistance from those who are benefiting from corrupt systems.
To name just a few highlights— last year, the World Bank’s Doing Business Indicators report recognized Afghanistan as the top reforming country for improving the business climate. Our Access to Information law was recognized as the best in the world. The government increased domestic revenue by 91% between 2014 and 2018, and met every IMF benchmark during the same period.
We have set a new tone of intolerance toward corruption. Since inaugurating our National Strategy to Counter Corruption in 2017, we have already completed well over half of the goals and are now working toward a new set of benchmarks that will expose and address the next layer of problems in this long-process of rooting out corruption.
We have invested tremendously in efforts to connect our region through trade and by addressing regional energy needs. Our farmers, producers, entrepreneurs and businessmen and women are now able to look outward to export their products—via the Lapis Lazuli corridor to Europe, via the Chabahar port in Iran to India, or via air corridors to Turkey, Saudia Arabia, China, and beyond. We exported nearly $1 billion worth of products last year. We are moving from an aid to a trade economy.
The result of the past five years is that we have laid a legal foundation for a modern economy, society and state, and we have also changed the tone of governance in Afghanistan.
We have achieved this due to the creativity, perseverance and bravery of the Afghan people and the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces. We are grateful to the international community for the support and assistance they have provided. Continuing support of the Decade of Transformation will allow us to see the fruits of our sacrifices in both blood and treasure. But as Afghans, we have the primary responsibility—we own the problems and we are implementing solutions.
The last five years have delivered us at the doorstep of peace. The country, and indeed the world, are abuzz with both the excitement of its possibility, and the concerns and uncertainties that surround it.
Two years ago, peace was not part of the vocabulary when one spoke of Afghanistan. The National Unity Government made it a priority and took risks for peace, and today it is something we are working toward.
Let me give some insight on where we stand on peace today, and where we are leading. After President Ghani’s unconditional peace talks offer in February 2018, followed by the ceasefire in June 2018 and the announcement of an Afghan negotiating team and peace roadmap in November 2018, we have been working to build consensus across the country over the past few months. In December last year, the government hosted a Jirga with 2,500 youth from 34 provinces. In February, the country’s first women’s gathering was held in the Loya Jirga tent, where 3,500 women gathered themselves from all provinces to reach a consensus on what they expect from the peace process. They raised the voices of 15,000 women who had been consulted over a 6-month period.
This spring, the government will convene a consultative Loya Jirga, which will further bond the collective voice of the Afghan people. This will be followed by the 3rd Kabul Process Conference, where we will be looking practically at implementing a post-peace plan.
Peace is imperative and needed urgently, but not at any cost. The Constitution must be respected, as well as the democratic state and elected government it constitutes. The process must be inclusive and representative of the new Afghanistan, not a deal made between elites. If peace is going to belong to and be maintained by Afghans, it must ultimately be owned by Afghans themselves.
The Afghan government and the Afghan people have made commitments to peace. Now it is up to the Taliban to prove their commitment. They have so far failed to seize opportunities for peace. Yet we stand ready to engage in direct talks. If the Taliban genuinely want peace, they should demonstrate it through positive deeds, not by continued attacks against innocent people and our security forces.
Peace also goes hand in hand with elections. We thank the United Nations for its steadfast support of the democratic process in Afghanistan, and count on its continued technical support for the upcoming polls.
The Afghan people have, time and again, gone to the polls to reinforce and strengthen their belief in democracy. In October last year, 2,565 candidates, most of them of a younger generation, contested 249 seats in the parliament. More than 4 million Afghans came out to vote, over 35% of them women.
It is the government’s responsibility to match our people’s trust in their democracy with reforms that uphold, strengthen and protect our democratic systems. After mismanagement, poor administration and organization were exposed during our parliamentary elections, we have been working to add further credibility and transparency to the process. After the Cabinet approved amendments to the electoral law, an unprecedented initiative took place two weeks ago—current presidential candidates came together to elect new commissioners of both the Independent Election Commission and the Independent Election Complaints Commission. I will add that, in another first for our country, both newly elected commission heads are women, elected by their predominately male colleagues.
The Afghan people and our international partners have made enormous sacrifices to build our democracy and the Afghan people are counting on elections. I would like to emphasize that we welcome international monitors in every phase of the elections this year.
As we pursue peace, we also simultaneously maintain military operations and are implementing reforms to strengthen our National Defense and Security Forces.
The ANDSF defied predictions of collapse and failure when they took over in 2014, protecting not only Afghanistan’s sovereignty but also safeguarding the world from the threat of global terror. After the implementation of new policies and strategies, we have seen improved operational output on the battlefield and a substantial increase in offensive operations. Our security forces have not only held ground, but solidified control of territories, and weakened pockets of enemy contingents, including Daesh elements in the eastern and northern parts of the country.
While fighting a war on several battlefields and with a shortage of needed equipment and capabilities, the government implemented a complete overhaul of the security sector, which allowed for much-needed generational change in leadership. I was honored to witness the promotion of one of those new, young leaders on Armed Forces Day at the Ministry of Defense — Ms. Mursal Afshar was promoted from First Lt. to Captain rank. I was impressed with her professionalism, dedication, and patriotism, and I feel emboldened to know that we have young soldiers like Captain Afshar fighting this war, for Afghanistan and for the world.
We must remember that peace with the Taliban in Afghanistan will not mean an end to the threat of global terrorism. Afghan forces will remain defiant in the face of terrorism, but this responsibility does not belong solely to Afghans—it is a long-term global threat, which requires a sustained global response.
Only a zero tolerance approach, based on genuine and sincere cooperation by all states, is key to success. Strict enforcement of Security Council sanctions measures contained in its resolutions 1988 and 1267 should no longer be compromised. Any failure in this regard translates to a failure of the Security Council’s response to combating terrorist and extremist groups effectively, and also renders these groups capable of continuing their destructive activities.
Afghanistan will continue to pursue a sequential, thoughtful peace process which leads to dialogue between the Afghan government and people, and the Taliban. We will continue to pursue military and counter-terrorism objectives, and we remain absolutely committed to holding presidential elections this year.
We ask our international partners to see Afghanistan as a platform for regional and global cooperation, not just for mutual economic benefit but also for shared objectives for peace and stability.
In closing, I would like to reiterate Afghanistan’s gratitude for the role this Council has played in galvanizing international partnership for Afghanistan, dating back to 2001, when we opened a new chapter in our modern history. Over the years, this Council has been consistent in its support, helping us to progress towards self-reliance and peace. We are clear-eyed about the challenges that remain, which still demand the support of this Council and the international community. Afghanistan remains a trusted partner committed to our international obligations for promoting global peace, solidarity and stability.
Colombo: - Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari called on the Honorable Western Province Governor M. Azath Salley on February 18, 2019. They discussed a range of issues of mutual interest at the provincial and sub-national levels, including initiating a sister-province relationship between Kabul and Western Province. The Governor offered his full support for the hard efforts of Ambassador Haidari, as he has been striving to further expand Afghanistan-Sri Lanka relations. The Ambassador noted the need for a regular exchange of delegations to visit each other's provinces and share lessons to be learned for effective local governance and public administration.
Colombo: - On February 19, 2019, Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari called on Ambassador Phan Kieu Thu, Secretary-General of the Colombo Plan, which Afghanistan has been a member-state of since early 1960s. They discussed a range of issues, including the Plan's aid programs in Afghanistan.
The Ambassador appreciated the socioeconomic assistance the Plan's so far provided to Afghanistan, thanking the U.S. Department of State and other donors for their continued support. They agreed to collaborate closely to raise both attention to and sustainable aid resources for addressing the global challenges that confront Afghanistan.
Ambassador Haidari also offered his full support for the ongoing efforts of the Secretary-General, as she and her colleagues strive to realize the key goals of the Colombo Plan's mission to advance regional cooperateion towards achieving common goals for increased stability and prosperity throughout the region.
Colombo: - Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari paid a courtesy visit to meet with the Honorable Speaker of the Sri Lankan Parliament Karu Jayasuriya on February 18, 2019. The Ambassador conveyed the warm greetings of President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and Speaker of the Afghan Parliament Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi to the Speaker and through him to the people of Sri Lanka. The two sides reviewed the status of Afghanistan-Sri Lanka bilateral relations, and agreed that there was much room for further strengthening and expanding bilateral ties in many areas of mutual interest, including in the economic, social, cultural, as well as political and defense sectors. One way to do so, Ambassador Haidari proposed, is to create an Afghanistan-Sri Lanka Parliamentary Friendship Group, which Speaker Karu Jayasuriya welcomed and offered to support strongly.
Ambassador Haidari highlighted the bilateral cooperation MOUs and agreements so far signed by the two sides, noting the importance of expanding bilateral cooperation in technical education and skills development with a focus on hard sciences, information & technology, nursing, engineering, water management, among others. He pointed out the recent signing of a cooperation MOU between Kabul University and University of Colombo, which he hoped would facilitate student and faculty exchange and joint research and academic collaboration between the two Universities.