Welcome

Speech by Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on the occasion of the opening of the Afghanistan Regional Conference at Istanbul

02.11.2011 - Speech

- Translation of advance text -

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Dear Minister Davutoğlu,
Dear Minister Rassoul,
Dear Colleagues,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all, I would also like to thank the governments of Afghanistan and Turkey for cohosting this important initiative. The region came here today to talk about strengthening regional cooperation and support for Afghanistan’s future.

Germany commends you on this initiative. We would warmly welcome the adoption of a Document of the Istanbul process with clear principles,confidence building measures and a follow-up.

We hope that in the course of the coming months, we will see a continuing process towards an ongoing regional dialogue. A ministerial meeting in Kabul in June 2012 would be a first milestone in that direction.

Ten years of conflict in Afghanistan have taught us that military means alone are not sufficient to solve this crisis. We need a political solution with active support from the region.

There is a need for mutual trust, confidence, and cooperation. Cooperation on common security concerns that affect not only Afghanistan, but the region as a whole. The challenges affecting Central Asia today are not confined by national borders. Security and stability therefore require a coordinated, cooperative approach.

Deepening cooperation in your region is not only a necessity. It is, above all, an opportunity to invest in the economic future of your countries and of your citizens. In September, Secretary Clinton, Foreign Minister Rassoul, and I presented to you in New York the “New Silk Road” vision. In this concept, a web of transportation, trade, and energy links would once again connect the Heart of Asia with Europe and the South and East of Asia. A strong and credible commitment for Afghanistan also needs sustainable economic development in the region as a whole.

In July of this year ISAF has begun the transition of security responsibility to the Afghan National Security Forces. Together with the Afghan Government, we have decided that by the end of the year 2014 no more foreign combat troops will be serving in Afghanistan.

However, this will not be the end of the international presence there. We will stay with the Afghans for a long time. But our engagement will be different. It will be predominently civilian. This will be one of our central messages when we meet again on 5 December in Bonn.

Today in Istanbul, we see the beginning of a process owned and led by the region. Germany and her partners from the international community are here to support your efforts. In Bonn we will welcome and support what you, Afghanistan and the countries in the region, hopefully will achieve here in Istanbul today.

The presence of so many foreign ministers from the region and beyond is proof of our common commitment to the future of Afghanistan and the region as a whole. I would be very happy as your host in December to see you all again in my hometown on the river Rhine.

Thank you!

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