--check against delivery --
Deputy Foreign Minister Ludin,
I am honoured to welcome you today here in Berlin in the Auswärtiges Amt for this meeting of the International Contact Group.
The German government has had the privilege of convening this International Contact Group for the past several years. The ICG’s strength in coordinating international efforts to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan derives from all of its members. The progress we have seen since 2009 is a result of our collective efforts.
The death of a German soldier in combat in northern Afghanistan earlier this month was a stark reminder for my country that the path before us remains a difficult one. This morning, we received the sad news of three Georgian soldiers who were killed yesterday in Helmand. Allow me to express to our Georgian colleague here present my heartfelt condolences and also the best wishes for a quick recovery for all injured ISAF soldiers. We mourn the loss of so many lives, both Afghan and from other nations, in this long-lasting conflict. But we remain undeterred. A lasting peace in Afghanistan may yet take some time to achieve.
One year ago this week, the German and Afghan governments signed an agreement on bilateral cooperation. That agreement outlined Germany’s commitment to Afghanistan's long-term stabilization. It renewed our pledge of solidarity with the Afghan people.
And just a few weeks ago, Germany became the first NATO member to announce its offer to participate in a training mission for the Afghan security forces after the ISAF mission ends in 2014. Germany has chosen to maintain a lead coordinating role among international partners and Afghan security forces in the North.
We are sending a clear message: Germany stands with Afghanistan and will continue to do so beyond the end of ISAF. Our support for a peaceful Afghanistan will become more civilian with every step. Afghanistan remains Germany’s single most important partner for our civilian and development cooperation. There is much work to do to secure the progress we have made. Germany agreed at the Tokyo Conference last year to provide Afghanistan with up to 430 million euros annually. Germany declared at the NATO Summit in Chicago that from 2015 onwards it will provide an annual sum of around 150 million euros to help finance the Afghan National Security Forces. Germany stands by its commitments.
But Commitments go both ways. Together we must encourage the Afghan people to embrace their responsibilities for Afghanistan’s transition and set their country on a path to self-reliance. They need to protect hard-fought gains in rights for women and minorities. They need to push for credible, transparent, and fair elections, and fight corruption while providing economic opportunity for all Afghans.
Only a political process of inter-Afghan reconciliation can bring about lasting peace in Afghanistan. This process should be supported both by Afghanistan's neighbours and by the international community.
I am encouraged by the strong representation here today. It is proof of our commitment to protect and build upon the gains we have achieved. Together over the next 18 months, we will achieve a successful Afghan-led and Afghan-owned transition. In the years to come, we will enable a safe and stable Afghanistan supported by the region and the international community.