-- Translation of advance text --
President Karzai, President Saakashvili,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Our discussion yesterday evening was dominated by the startling events in the Middle East. We have all heard the call for freedom and democracy. Those demonstrating in the streets for greater political participation are exercising a human right.
The coming weeks will show whether we really are witnessing a watershed moment. We are all hoping that the change will be peaceful and that it will lead to democratization marked by freedom and equality.
This morning we will rightly focus on Afghanistan. In 1989 the world’s attention was directed to the new freedom in Europe. That same year, Afghanistan sank into civil war. The international community had turned its back on Afghanistan after the withdrawal of Soviet troops. This is a mistake that will not be repeated.
We will continue to devote our attention to Afghanistan. We will continue to bear our responsibility towards Afghanistan.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Last year began with a shift in strategy. In 2010, our view of Afghanistan and, above all, the overriding goal of our mission became more realistic.
This year we will ensure the success of the new strategy. 2011 must be the year of the political approach in Afghanistan.
A few days ago, the German Bundestag approved by an impressive majority the extension of the Bundeswehr mission. That was no small feat and future extensions will not be any easier.
We want to reduce our forces as soon as the situation permits. However, any reduction must not place the remaining soldiers in greater danger, neither German soldiers nor those of our allies. We went into this together and we will come out of it together when our joint task has been completed.
A new parliament convened in Afghanistan last week. This brought to an end the difficult process following the elections in late September. No-one can still claim today that the elections were without irregularities. Much has to be improved before the next elections.
I welcome the criminal investigation by the competent Afghan authorities into the election manipulations.
There are some parliaments around the world which are ineffectual. The Afghan Parliament has shown that it will be a self-confident parliament. That is a good omen for democracy in Afghanistan.
I hope, Mr President, that you will have a good working relationship with parliament based on mutual trust. Where there are differences of opinion, they need to be thrashed out. However, even though criticism is seldom pleasant for a government, for democracy it is as essential as the air we breathe.
2010 was a difficult year and we should not forget the victims. In the coming months and years, progress will not be easy. We will have to keep on struggling and striving to make headway. We still have major hurdles to overcome if responsibility for security in the entire country is to be handed over to the Afghans by 2014 at the latest. We are prepared to do that. The international community is making available more funding than ever before for civilian reconstruction and for political work.
You all know what decisions were made in London, Kabul and Lisbon.
The handover of responsibility for security, the transition, will begin in individual provinces and districts in the spring.
We will decide at the meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Berlin this April which areas these will be.
In Lisbon we decided that NATO is to support Afghanistan in a long-term security partnership. For, of course, the international community’s responsibility will not end with the handover of responsibility for security to the Afghans. We will continue to assist security forces and regional institutions after the handover. For they must be equipped to fulfil their difficult task.
Progress in training soldiers and police officers has been more rapid than expected, and we have been able to train more forces than originally planned.
We have thus scored a first success. Ultimately, however, our success will not be measured primarily in terms of the number of soldiers and police officers leaving training centres today. Rather, our success will be measured in terms of the number of soldiers and police officers still serving a year from now, and the number still serving in two or three years’ time.
The violence in Afghanistan will not end with the signing of a capitulation. We will not see a clear victor, nor a clear loser. The conflict cannot be resolved by military means alone.
Only a comprehensive political solution will bring peace to Afghanistan. The political process is only just beginning. The Afghans themselves must take the lead. There can only be reconciliation in Afghanistan if all key political players, including those outside the state institutions, take part in the reconciliation process.
This reconciliation process must give Afghans the confidence that the Taliban’s reign of terror will not return.
We have great hopes for the High Peace Council. Our aim is to bring all parties to the conflict to the table to engage in talks. That will not be easy. But reconciliation is rarely easy. If all sides are willing to compromise, the talks in the High Peace Council will produce real results.
The political process will also require some willingness to compromise on the part of the Afghan Government. Many things will have to be placed under scrutiny in the interest of compromise. But there are also lines which should not be crossed.
First, the Afghan Constitution and the human rights guaranteed by it must be respected.
Second, the insurgents must renounce violence entirely.
Third, they must cut all ties to international terrorism.
Whoever complies with these requirements will have a place in Afghan society.
The political process must not remain abstract. It must yield concrete, visible results in the lives of those affected. Those who renounce violence need genuine employment prospects in order to be reintegrated into society. The path to reintegration often begins with small steps.
First a former insurgent learns to read and write, then he receives vocational training that he can use to become self-employed. These steps are already being taken through the Afghan Government’s Reintegration Programme. More than 1000 insurgent fighters have been demobilized in recent months. In Kunduz Province, entire groups have come over to the Government’s side. The Afghan side is doing a fine job. The most important structures are in place and the initial funds have been provided. With an annual contribution of 10 million euro, Germany counts among the largest donors.
Helping others to help themselves is a part of the overarching political process. Everything that provides people with jobs and future prospects is a step towards internal reconciliation in Afghanistan.
Civilian reconstruction is much more than an act of compassion – it is security policy in action.
Afghanistan’s neighbours also play a considerable role in determining its success or failure.
The Afghan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement provides an example of the advantages that stability in Afghanistan offers to neighbouring countries as well. We need to keep thinking in this direction.
Stabilization in Afghanistan is not a Western concern, but rather a concern for the region and the international community. The fact that the next meeting of the international contact group will take place in Jeddah underscores that Islamic states also must assume responsibility for Afghanistan. I wish Ambassador Michael Steiner, the chairman of the international contact group, great success in his further efforts.
The political process goes far beyond the reintegration of insurgent fighters. It also encompasses better governance. Administration in many parts of Afghanistan can scarcely be considered fair or effective. Corruption and nepotism are far more than scattered incidents.
We need a Government that works on behalf of its citizens and protects human rights. We need an independent judiciary.
There are still major challenges ahead of us. But we have a joint strategy for meeting these challenges. We have the will and the means. Together we will continue to work on a free and peaceful Afghanistan.
At the beginning of this year Germany started its second two-year term on the UN Security Council. There too, we are contributing to peace in Afghanistan.
We’re building on cooperation with the allies in the Security Council who share this responsibility and this duty with us.
I view your request for a conference in Bonn at the end of the year as recognition of Germany’s role in your country. Ten years after Germany assumed responsibility for Afghanistan at the Bonn Conference, we want to draw up a road map for the final three years of the transition process until the end of 2014.
Ten years ago the United Nations chaired the conference. At that time there was no legitimate Afghan Government. This year things will be different.
The conference in Bonn will be an Afghan conference.
Your people can count on our support even after 2014. It will take a different form than it does now. It will be more civilian, more political in nature. But this will make it all the more important.