Regional cooperation

Achieving stability in Afghanistan is inseparably linked to stability in the region. For this reason, a process that includes all of Afghanistan’s neighbours was initiated in Istanbul in November 2011. On 14 June in Kabul, the first follow-up conference was held at the level of Foreign Ministers to continue this “Istanbul Process”. The title of the conference was “Heart of Asia”, describing the location of the country between South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East.

Foreign Minister Westerwelle represented Germany at the meeting in Afghanistan’s capital. He expressed his conviction that the conference could make an important contribution to reducing existing mistrust and building new mutual confidence. Afghanistan and its neighbours have agreed on implementing concrete confidence building measures, which include, according to the conference declaration, better cooperation on disaster management and the fight against terrorism and narcotic drug production as well as on economic and education issues. Germany has agreed to support the cooperation between the region’s chambers of commerce and the development of a regionally connecting infrastructure.

Including all neighbours

At the beginning of the conference in Kabul, Westerwelle said that “we want Afghanistan’s future to be characterized by reason, peace and success,” adding that the stability of the country depended on “the neighbours supporting this stability”. This was, he continued, also in the interest of the neighbours themselves, because for decades Afghanistan had been a “source of instability” for the entire region. “If that can be overcome through policy promoting stability, then all will benefit,” said the Minister.

Bilateral discussions with Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi

Bilateral discussions with Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi
© picture alliance/dpa

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Bilateral discussions with Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi

Bilateral discussions with Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi

Bilateral discussions with Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi

Westerwelle explicitly welcomed Iran’s and Pakistan’s participation in the conference. He said that countries could not choose their neighbours. He went on to say that if a good solution for Afghanistan was to be reached, it would be crucial that “all neighbours be included”. The Minister thus took time during the conference to hold bilateral meetings with Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khar as well as his Iranian counterpart Salehi and others.

Forty-two delegations took part in the regional conference “Heart of Asia”, among them Afghanistan and its neighbours, including Iran (the 15 “Heart of Asia” countries), 12 international and regional organizations such as the United Nations, the EU, NATO, the OSCE and the OIC. Fifteen other countries are participating as observers, including Germany, other European countries and the United States. The goal of the “Istanbul Process” is to promote constructive political and economic participation of the region’s countries in future developments in Afghanistan.

Long-term support

Westerwelle also met with Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai on the fringes of the conference. Important topics were progress in handing over responsibility for security, withdrawing international combat troops by the end of 2014 as well as continued support for Afghanistan. On 16 May in Berlin, President Karzai and Federal Chancellor Merkel signed a partnership agreement concerning long-term cooperation between the countries. Westerwelle pointed out that in the regional command led by Germany around four out of five regions were on the way to handing over responsibility for security to Afghanistan.

In Kabul Westerwelle emphasized that in the future Germany wanted to focus above all on Afghanistan’s economic progress. He said that the healthier the country’s development was, the less young people could be seduced by terrorists and that Afghanistan needed “an economic perspective if it wants to be stable in the long run”.

Germany has been actively involved in Afghanistan since the new start after the fall of the Taliban regime. On 5 December 2011, Germany played host to the International Conference on Afghanistan in Bonn. The conference provided a new basis for the further partnership between the international community and the country for the decade following 2014. At its most recent summit at the end of May in Chicago, NATO also reaffirmed its continuing support for the country. The framework established in Bonn and Chicago must now be filled with life.

Last updated 14.06.2012

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