Dinner Meeting on the Afghanistan Geneva Ministerial Conference

October 28, 2018

Kabul

 بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم

 Minister Qayumi,

Ambassador Yamamoto,

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to welcome you all to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan. Our meeting this evening is the first in a series of dinner events, which aim at providing opportunities to share updates and discuss views on the most pressing issues, as well as major ongoing processes that focus on the stabilization and sustainable development of Afghanistan.

Our dinner meeting this evening focuses on the upcoming Geneva Conference, which will bring high-level representatives from Afghanistan and our regional and international partners to discuss the status of our shared journey since 2001. We will also discuss the way forward, reaffirming our commitment to consolidating our shared gains of the past 17 years.

Before highlighting some of the key issues on the Geneva Conference agenda, I wish to thank Minister Qayumi and Ambassador Yamamoto, as well as their able teams for their continued efforts to prepare for and organize the Geneva Conference.

I also wish to thank you all for taking the time to attend this event. Your presence here speaks to our unwavering, firm partnership to achieving sustainable peace, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan, our region, and the wider world.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This past week, we witnessed an important milestone in our democratic process. Despite the imposed challenges that confront Afghanistan and our partner-nations, Afghans across our country lined up for hours over two days to exercise their democratic right to vote for their favorite parliamentary candidates. This sent a strong message to the enemies of Afghanistan that our people are determined to move forward towards a stable and prosperous Afghanistan.

On the other hand, however, there have been reports of irregularities and mismanagement which, I hope, will be investigated thoroughly by the relevant authorities so that the legitimacy of the election will not be undermined, retaining the confidence of our public in the electoral process. In the same vein, I hope that—learning from the lessons and challenges related to the parliamentary elections—better preparations will continue to be made for the upcoming presidential elections in 2019 to ensure a fair, transparent and inclusive electoral process.

However, I am glad that with the holding of the parliamentary elections on the set date, we have been able to complete one of the important benchmarks designed to complement the reforms under SMAF. Efforts on accomplishing the other benchmarks have also been well underway and my colleagues from the Ministry of Finance and UNAMA will certainly provide updates on them.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me very briefly discuss why the Geneva Conference is important and what we are expecting from the Conference:

First, the Conference will provide an excellent opportunity to take stock of the progress with respect to the mutual commitments made at the Brussels Conference, while highlighting the challenges that we still face in accomplishing our shared commitments. In Geneva, we will present the status of our reforms in key areas, as well as our priorities for the coming years. We will also discuss with the international community such key issues as the alignment of international assistance with our national priority programs in line with the Afghan National Peace and Development Framework (ANPDF).

Second, the Conference will bring us to a new phase of partnership characterized by a new set of mutual commitments under the Geneva Mutual Accountability Framework (GMAF), which will be crucial in taking our reform agenda forward towards self-reliance in the next few years. Minister Qayoumi will further elaborate on this new framework.

Third, our focus in Geneva will remain on development issues. But the conference will also provide an opportunity to discuss the peace process given the inseparable link between peace and development in the Afghan context. As we have highlighted in the past, our resolve to achieve a peaceful solution to the current conflict in Afghanistan remains strong. Despite our ongoing peace efforts, including the temporary ceasefire with the Taliban, we are far from our intended objective.

That is why Geneva will be an opportunity to discuss how we can further integrate our efforts at the national, regional and international levels in support of an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process. President Ghani outlined this based on a lucid peace strategy in the last two meetings of the Kabul Process, as well as in the Tashkent Conference. But as we remain committed to an inclusive peace process, we are determined to defend our country, people, as well as our developing democracy against ruthless terrorists and their indiscriminate attacks, which we witnessed during the recent elections.

Fourth, as reflected by the Conference’s theme, regional economic cooperation and connectivity underpins Afghanistan’s development agenda. Hence, the Geneva Conference will discuss the ongoing progress made under two prominent Afghanistan-centered regional cooperation frameworks: RECCA and HOA-IP. In this context, the next HOA-IP Ministerial Meeting and the associated investment roadshow—which are scheduled for mid-December—will complement our discussions in Geneva.

Finally, our gathering in Geneva will convey a strong message of international partnership for furthering the causes of peace, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan. This, in turn, will help maintain regional stability and advance international peace and security, in line with the United Nations Charter and other international laws, to which Afghanistan and our partner-nations are firmly committed.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

To conclude, I am confident that the Geneva Conference will mark another milestone in our continued, shared journey. I along with Minister Qayoumi and Ambassador Yamamoto look forward to welcoming our friends, foreign ministers and heads of regional and international organizations in Geneva soon.

Thank you!

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Kabul: - H.E. Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah received a courtesy visit from Ambassador-Designate to Sri Lanka M. Ashraf Haidari on October 9, 2018. The Chief Executive congratulated Mr. Haidari on his appointment and took note of Sri Lanka’s instructive experience in a number of areas where the two countries could initiate to collaborate: education, technical capacity building in the medical and engineering sectors, business and investment, as well as reintegration of former combatants with a focus on empowerment of women and girls.

Mr. Haidari briefed the Chief Executive on the agreements and MOUs so far signed between the two countries, as well as his recent meetings with various line Ministries and independent technical institutions to discuss opportunities for bilateral cooperation. He also informed the Chief Executive of his meetings with the Ambassadors of various countries in Kabul, exploring opportunities for trilateral cooperation with Sri Lanka.

Alongside H.E. President Ghani, the Chief Executive instructed Mr. Haidari to further strengthen bilateral ties with the friendly government and people of Sri Lanka, assuring him of his strong support. He noted that he would forward to receiving for a visit to Kabul his Sri Lankan counterpart, H.E. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, which Mr. Haidari said that he would convey to the Prime Minister.

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Kabul: - H.E. Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani met, on October 10, 2018, Ambassador-Designate to Sri Lanka M. Ashraf Haidari, with whom he reviewed the status of Afghan-Sri Lankan bilateral relations. Mr. Haidari briefed the Foreign Minister on the agreements and MOUs so far signed between the two countries, as well as his recent meetings with various line Ministries and independent technical institutions to discuss opportunities for bilateral cooperation. He also informed the Foreign Minister of his meetings with the Ambassadors of various countries in Kabul, exploring opportunities for trilateral cooperation with Sri Lanka.

H.E. Foreign Minister Rabbani noted the importance of learning from Sri Lanka’s war-to-peace-transition experience, while seeking to create multi-faceted people-to-people ties between the two countries through business and investment, cultural exchange, education and capacity building, as well as security and defense cooperation. Afghanistan’s former Foreign Minister, H.E. Zalmai Rassoul, visited Sri Lanka for a three-day working visit in late 2012, and signed with his then counterpart several bilateral cooperation agreements and MOUs—which largely underpin the current bilateral relationship.

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Kabul: - H.E. President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani received a courtesy visit from Mr. M. Ashraf Haidari, whom the President recently appointed as Ambassador of Afghanistan to Sri Lanka, at the ARG-Presidential Palace on September 24, 2018. After reviewing Afghanistan-Sri Lanka bilateral relations, the President pointed out a number of key areas for further cooperation between Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, which have so far signed several agreements and MOUs—covering such areas as economy, education, science and technology; higher education; health-care; business and investment; aviation; as well as sports and cultural cooperation.

H.E. President Ghani instructed the Ambassador-Designate to build on the current Afghan-Sri Lankan ties, further exploring cooperation opportunities in the areas of air-corridor connectivity, agriculture, agribusiness, irrigation, banking, rural development, as well as skilled labor development and export to external markets. Moreover, he praised Sri Lanka’s success in the fight against terrorism and insurgency, as well as the country’s ongoing national reconciliation and reintegration programs for the former combatants—from which Afghanistan could learn relevant lessons in support of the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.

In light of the meeting and the President’s instructions, the Ambassador-Designate has begun closely working with H.E. Sri Lankan Ambassador to Afghanistan Gagan Bulathsingala, jointly meeting along with him senior Afghan government officials to help expedite the implementation of Afghanistan-Sri Lanka agreements and MOUs, while exploring other opportunities for bilateral cooperation. Moreover, before his departure for Colombo, Mr. Haidari has reached out to a number of Ambassadors of developed countries in Kabul, exploring North-South-South cooperation opportunities. This would mostly take the form of trilateral ways of cooperation where a developed country with more resources could collaborate with Sri Lanka as a developing country to help less developed Afghanistan.

Afghanistan and Sri Lanka first established diplomatic relations on a non-resident basis in 1961-1963. After a pause during the imposed conflicts of the 1990s in Afghanistan, they resumed non-resident relations out of their Embassies in New Delhi. In 2013, Afghanistan elevated its relations with Sri Lanka to resident-level, opening an Embassy in Colombo and appointing an Ambassador. Sri Lanka reciprocated to open an Embassy and appoint an Ambassador in the following in 2014.

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Security Council Debate on the Situation in Afghanistan
September 17, 2018
NEW YORK

بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم

Mr. President,

Let me begin by conveying our best wishes for a successful Council Presidency in September, and our gratitude to the United States for convening today’s debate on Afghanistan. We thank SRSG Yamamoto for his comprehensive briefing. We are particularly pleased by the presence of Mr. Ramiz Bakhtiar, Afghanistan’s first-ever UN youth representative. We look forward to his presentation, which will be reflective of the voice of our youth on the overall situation in the country. His merit-based selection as our UN youth representative is a manifestation of how far our younger generation has come in becoming proactive agents of change in society.

Today’s meeting of the Security Council takes place at a crucial moment – as we approach scheduled parliamentary elections next month; the international Geneva Conference on Afghanistan in November; followed by the anticipated presidential elections in April 2019. If all goes well, by mid-next year, we should complete our political transition, with a new parliament and a new government.

Meanwhile, our security forces are leading the national struggle against terrorist and extremist groups, who have increased their brutality against our people, as part of a renewed attempt to take more innocent lives, including journalists and aid workers, and subvert our progress. 

As guardians of our territorial integrity, our national security forces continue to grow in size, strength and professionalism. Moreover, in addition to the substantial increase of our special forces, we are also working to triple the size of our air force by 2020. This, together with our ongoing reform, will have a profound impact enhancing our fight against international terrorism.

In the broader context, despite the difficult security environment, we remain on track to solidify gains in different areas, including governance and development. This is due, primarily, to the strength and resilience of our people in defying complex challenges, as they have so courageously done over time during the course of our nation’s history; and secondly to the continued support of our many friends and allies in the international community. 

Mr. President,

The core objective of our enduring partnership with the international community is based on achieving a sustainable peace that is seen as just and comprehensive. As we take stock of the status of peace efforts through new outreach to the Taliban, we need to draw the right lessons from the history of engagement with that group. This is essential to ensure that we are indeed on the right track, as we move forward.

Following our sustained efforts, this year, at the Kabul Process Conference in February, we launched a reinvigorated and more flexible peace plan that presented unprecedented incentives, unanticipated even by the Taliban. It included unconditional talks and measures for their return and reintegration in society.

Lately, through increased diplomatic engagement with various partners, we have strengthened regional and international consensus in support of peace efforts. The successive civil mobilizations and gatherings of Islamic scholars, in Kabul, Jakarta and Jeddah, helped enable and welcome the first-ever temporary ceasefire with the Taliban in June. Nevertheless, in spite of that brief lull in fighting, the Taliban rejected the second cease-fire, proposed by us and welcomed by this noble Council.

Making real progress in peace efforts will not be possible unless the consistent pattern to manipulate, misuse opportunities and deception for strategic gains comes to an end.

Mr. President,

Afghanistan stands fully committed to engage in a genuine peace process, with tangible results for our people. However, the guiding principle in moving forward dictates that the fundamental factors, which have prevented peace efforts from gaining traction, must first be adequately detected and then addressed.

All along, we have underscored the importance of regional support for our peace efforts, with a specific role by Pakistan. Advancing the peace process is a key element of the recently signed Afghanistan Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS). We welcome the last Saturday visit of Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi to Kabul, where he expressed his Government’s readiness to support peace and stability in Afghanistan. The key determinant in validating that commitment will be the full and effective implementation of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity.

Mr. President,

For nearly a quarter of a century, Afghanistan has turned into the site of what I term a “geographical genocide” of certain circles within our region. The expectation is that my country should either become their “trusted” agent, or be weakened, bled and represented as the horrific face of terror around the world, devoid of its independence, advancement, rich culture, and history. The erratic positions of the Taliban in the peace talks, their leaderless profile, factional structure, and brutal attacks are used to pursue this policy.

Such genocide, having a casualty of more than 10,000 a year and traumatizing millions, and we heard about some of them in the presentation of our youth representative, has had a negative impact on almost everything else in our country; governance, economy, electoral process, anti-corruption, counter-narcotics, and so on. So the important thing is that we either do something about the root causes, or continue to talk about the consequences.

Mr. President,

Afghanistan has clearly asserted that regional and international support is vital for the success of the Afghan-led peace process. We welcome all coordinated efforts leading to direct talks that can generate concrete results, rather than a repeat of the past. We are keenly following the interactions between some of our partners and the Taliban, which is being coordinated with the Afghan Government.

Let me take this opportunity to express a word of thanks to all partners, inside and outside our region, who are supporting our peace process. Such efforts rendered in a manner that reinforces our ownership and leadership of the process remains essential.

Mr. President,

Other key issues are the up-coming elections, which will determine our future stability. Efforts are underway to ensure that the elections are free, fair, inclusive and transparent, in accordance with the will of our people. The successful electoral outcome will have a profound impact on the future positive trajectory of Afghanistan. Our people expect us to deliver on this national process, by addressing legitimate concerns and preventing fraud and insecurity from jeopardizing the process.

We thank the Security Council’s new emphasis on the imperative of transparent elections, as emphasized in its presidential and press statements issued in July and August. This is a welcome development, acknowledged by the people and Government of Afghanistan.

Further, our national unity and political stability provide the best guarantee for the long-term stability of our country. In this light, through a broad national dialogue, we need to work on all outstanding issues related to up-coming elections and win the trust of most stakeholders. We know fully well that successful elections and achieving other important national objectives can best be realized in a spirit of unity and understanding. 

Mr. President,

The November Ministerial Geneva Conference on Afghanistan will mark a new chapter in our relations with our international partners. Geneva will be a chance for us to brief the international community on progress against the benchmarks of Self-Reliance Mutual Accountability Framework (SMAF). More broadly, it will explore the way forward with respect to peace efforts; and regional economic cooperation agenda, which is one of the main achievements of the National Unity Government.

The endorsement of a new mutual accountability framework will refine the nature of our cooperation to make it more impactful for our people – through improvement of development aid from international donors; and effective project completion in the context of our national development strategy. The preparatory meeting for the Conference, co-chaired by Foreign Minister Rabbani; Finance Minister Qayumi and SRSG Yamamoto will be held here in New York this Sunday. We look forward to seeing you all there.

Mr. President,

We have always given special emphasis to achieving an environment in our region, where various neighbors work in tandem, in a spirit of mutual trust and confidence for win-win cooperation. We have done so believing that only such an approach will lead to success in overcoming common transnational threats and challenges. We continue to widen our network of bilateral arrangements with regional countries, including Central Asian States. In the same spirit, we recognize the enormous economic and other potentials which are yet to be fully utilized.

This is precisely the reason behind various Afghan-led initiatives, such as the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process and RECCA Process. New memberships in the HOA Process signals growing interest among the broader region. We hope the review and renewal of the confidence-building measures will enable each to progress at a more equal and similar pace. Furthermore, the RECCA Process has achieved phenomenal success in advancing regional connectivity and infrastructure development, turning our country into a platform of cordiality for all.

Mr. President,

To conclude, let us bear in mind that we – collectively – stand at a cross-roads in our strategic journey for peace and stability of Afghanistan, and more broadly, for global security. In that regard, the start of our partnership with the international community in 2001 manifested a contract; one aimed at securing a stable future for our current and future generations. Together, we have come a long way – reaching the last stage of the Transformation Decade for Self-Reliance. Let us complete this vital journey with greater resolve and commitment.

Thank You.

Kabul: - Ambassador-Designate M. Ashraf Haidari met with Minister of Counter-Narcotics Professor Salamat Azimi on October 3, 2018 to discuss opportunities for bilateral and multilateral counter-narcotics cooperation with Sri Lanka and the Colombo Plan. The Minister highlighted the challenge of drug production in Afghanistan as one of the key transnational security threats, which needs to be addressed through more results-driven regional and international cooperation.

The Minister reviewed some of the anti-drug programs of the Colombo Plan supported by the US Department of State in Afghanistan and said that more could be done to provide longer-term effective demand reduction assistance. Mr. Haidari noted that he would meet with the Colombo Plan officials in Sri Lanka, while exploring opportunities for cooperation with Sri Lanka’s National Dangerous Drugs Control Board and other related institutions.

He also pointed out the need for initiating trilateral cooperation programs, involving Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, and others to help stem trafficking of precursor chemicals into Afghanistan and trafficking of finished narcotic products out of the country. The Minister was accompanied by her Director of Policy Mohammad Osman Frotan and Mr. Haidari by Deputy Director of Policy and Strategy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Razi Elham.

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Kabul: - Ambassador-Designate M. Ashraf Haidari met today with Minister of Economy Dr. Mustafa Mastoor to discuss the importance of expanding bilateral economic cooperation between Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. The Minister noted that there is much underutilized potential in developing economic ties with Sri Lanka, a friendly country, whose major investors could take advantage of entering Afghanistan’s virgin markets through joint ventures.

He noted that Afghanistan annually imports basic consuming goods—such as food and non-food items—worth some $9.2 billion, which means availability of capital and the fact that Afghan investors take and share risk. However, for Afghanistan to begin producing some of the basic consuming goods cost-effectively, there is long-term need for importing technical-how, which can be provided by first-moving firms from Sri Lanka. The Minister highlighted that Afghanistan annually spends $620 million on medical tourism in the region, some of which can easily be captured by the Afghan-Sri Lankan joint ventures to be established.

Mr. Haidari also pointed out trilateral and multilateral cooperation opportunities on issues of technical capacity building, including addressing the needs of the Ministry of Economy in the areas of research, data analysis, and economic surveys. The Minister asked Mr. Haidari to discuss these and other potential areas of win-win cooperation with Sri Lankan stakeholders in the public and private sectors.

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Kabul: - Ambassador-Designate M. Ashraf Haidari met in a working lunch with Minister of Education Mirwais Balkhi to discuss opportunities for tangible cooperation with Sri Lanka in the education sector under an existing bilateral Agreement on Economy, Education, Science and Technology. The Minister highlighted his Ministry’s needs in the areas of printing and text book publication, curriculum development with a focus on the requirements of a post-conflict environment, technical scholarships, as well as administrative and financial management.

Mr. Haidari took detailed notes and said that he would meet with the Minister’s Sri Lankan counterpart and other stakeholders to identify specific areas for tangible cooperation. As a post-conflict country itself, Sri Lanka is best positioned to assist Afghanistan. Where the country may lack the resources to do so, the two countries could explore trilateral cooperation opportunities with friendly countries and international organizations, such as SAARC, UNESCO, UNDP, and others to help benefit Afghanistan from Sri Lanka’s experience and expertise.

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Kabul: - Ambassador-Designate M. Ashraf Haidari met with Minister of Industry and Commerce Humayoon Rasaw to discuss the status of Afghan-Sri Lankan bilateral trade on September 30, 2018. They noted that there is vast potential for expanding bilateral trade between Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, covering trade of such products as a variety of tea, textiles, tourism, medical tourism, dried nuts, fresh fruits, precious stones, semi-precious stones, as well as skilled labor and technical know-how in numerous fields.

They also discussed Mr. Haidari’s recent meeting with Economic Advisor to the President Ajmal Ahmadi on extending Afghanistan’s air-corridors initiative to Sri Lanka. Mr. Haidari pointed out the Afghanistan-Sri Lanka Agreement on Air Services, under which the Sri Lankan Airlines could consider operating direct and connecting flights between Kabul and Colombo, transporting both passengers and cargo that consist of bilateral products with high demand in both countries.

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Kabul: - Ambassador-Designate M. Ashraf Haidari met today with Deputy Chair of the Afghan High Peace Council Dr. Habiba Sarabi. They briefly discussed the Afghan peace process and the efforts of the High Peace Council in reaching out to the armed opposition groups for reconciliation based on the peace offer, which President Ashraf Ghani made last February. Mr. Haidari briefly discussed Sri Lanka’s Ministry of National Integration and Reconciliation, which has been instrumental in helping reintegrate former combatants into the society.

Deputy Chair Sarabi praised the steady progress Sri Lanka has made since the end of the three-decade war and violence in Sri Lanka. “We can certainly see what lessons can be learned from Sri Lanka’s reconciliation and reintegration experiences, as well as from their successful implementation of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security,” said Deputy Chair Sarabi. Mr. Haidari wrote down issues of interest to the Afghan High Peace Council and said that he would meet with senior officials of Sri Lanka’s Ministry of National Integration and Reconciliation to explore bilateral cooperation opportunities in areas, which could benefit the Afghan peace process.

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