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Excellencies, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure for me to welcome you to the Petersberg, right outside the city of Bonn. Bonn is not just the former capital of the Federal Republic of Germany, it is also my hometown.
President Karsai, we are honoured to have you with us tonight. Last November in Lisbon you asked if Germany would host this conference. Germany gladly accepted your request. That is another proof of the strong bonds of friendship between our countries.
Let me also give a very warm welcome to you, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. Your are at home here in Bonn, in Germany’s “City of the United Nations.”
Ladies and Gentlemen,
security, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan are in the common interest of the entire international community.
For the past ten years, the world has given unique assistance to Afghanistan. Now this assistance enters into a new phase. The transition of
security responsibility to the Afghan National Security Forces has begun. 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.
This will not be the end of the international presence in Afghanistan. We will not forget Afghanistan after 2014. Our engagement will last. But it will be different. It will focus more on reconstruction and development.
Already, the international engagement is changing. Long-term political, economic and security partnerships are increasingly taking place amid the ongoing military stabilization effort.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Afghanistan is on the path to full sovereignty. Let me point out three important steps we have made:
First: Afghanistan has begun an inclusive process of national reconciliation. The aim is clear. Every Afghan who is willing to renounce violence and terrorism, every Afghan who is willing to respect the Afghan constitution as well as the fundamental civil and human rights will have the chance to participate in the political process of the country.
The international support for the Afghan peace and reconciliation efforts must continue.
Second: In July, the transition process began, handing over security responsibility in Afghanistan. The second tranche was just announced last weekend. When it is implemented, half of the Afghan population will be living in areas of transition.
We have to discuss the civilian aspects of the handover of security responsibility to Afghan forces. Afghanistan must focus on further developing public administration, undertaking reforms toward
the rule of law and fighting corruption.
Finally: Last month in Istanbul, Afghanistan and the region agreed to improve regional cooperation on security and development. Crucially, the region made a commitment to fully respect and support the Afghan-led reconciliation process.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Tomorrow we will lay the foundation for a new relationship between a fully sovereign Afghanistan and the international community. Afghanistan will require international support for many years, far beyond 2014.
We must not repeat the mistakes of history. That is why we send the clear message to the people of Afghanistan: we know our responsibilty, we will continue to support you.
The international community must make a credible commitment to remain engaged in Afghanistan, even after our combat troops have left the country. This long-term international engagement needs to be clearly defined.
We propose three pillars for this: continuing civilian reconstruction, sustained support to the Afghan national security forces and helping the country unlock its enormous economic potential for the benefit of the Afghan people and of the region.
Peace, stability and prosperity are not only in the interest of the Afghan people. They are in the interest of the region as a whole.
Germany stands ready to maintain a firm and durable commitment to Afghanistan beyond 2014. In this context, I particularly welcome the European Union’s offer of a long-term partnership agreement with Afghanistan.
A peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan in a peaceful and prosperous region is our common goal. I believe that it is achievable. It will require a long and committed effort by all sides. But we owe it to the people of Afghanistan, and to ourselves and our values, that we succeed.
And now I have the honour of giving the floor to His Excellency, President Hamid Karzai.