Statement of Mr. Ershad Ahmadi, Deputy Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan at the Senior Officials Meeting of the Istanbul Process

23 September 2013

Bismillah arrahman arrahim.

Excellencies, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen!

On behalf of the Afghan government, may I to welcome you all to the Senior Officials Meeting of the Heart of Asia/Istanbul Process.
It is a great honor to be in your august company, discussing a process that delivers to one of the main pillars of the Afghanistan Foreign Policy, which is to promote regional cooperation. Since the inception of the process we have come along way and now I believe that we are in a turning point.
The Istanbul process remains an important initiative towards strengthening regional cooperation, particularly with a focus on Afghanistan’s place in the intersection of Central Asia, South Asia and the Middle East. The process provides a platform for political consultation and dialogue among the ‘Heart of Asia’ countries in order to contribute to peace and security in Afghanistan and the region by enhancing trust and understanding among us.
This is especially true in this critical juncture, as Afghanistan is going through multiple transitions and the role of the region is becoming increasingly important.
The initial phases of this process, which mainly focused on conceptualizing and strategizing, were marked by the Kabul and Almaty Ministerial conferences. Now that we have done all the ground work to enhance cooperation through political consultation, implementation of confidence building measures and complementing and building upon existing initiatives; we need to take practical steps together in realizing the goals, which we set out for ourselves through implementation of the CBMs as well as focusing on consolidation of common interests through political consultation and dialogue, as stated in Article 4 of the Almaty declaration.
Therefore, this time around we have invited all the Heart of Asia countries to engage in a dialogue and to discuss regional issues of their interest in this meeting. We hope that this exercise will provide us with the opportunity to explore and discuss our common interests and challenges in a constructive and solution-oriented manner.
Despite the challenges and ambiguities that remain about resources and funding in regard to the implementation of the CBMs, we are glad to report that, as mandated by the Almaty Ministerial Declaration, the lead countries organized regional technical group (RTG) meetings in 6 different capitals, discussing the progress made towards each of the activity plans and developing future activities, which will be discussed in greater lengths in the next sessions.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today, our region is at a crossroads. The nature of the common challenges that we face is complex, multi-dimensional and transnational. The threats of terrorism, radicalism and narcotics are blocking our potential and endangering peace and security in the region.

Much depends on what choices we make today and what policy tools we use to overcome our common challenges. Much depends on whether we opt to cooperate in confronting the threats and fostering security and prosperity for all of us or to insulate ourselves from these challenges. I believe that the Istanbul Process has a very important role to play in enhancing constructive cooperation and dialogue among us in this defining period.

Living in isolation is not an option. We can meet the challenges and address the concerns as it relates to the security, political, and economic transitions and the drawdown of the NATO forces in 2014, by engaging in a constructive and solution-oriented dialogue. We need to be guided by a positive narrative that capitalizes on our gains of the past 12 years, rather than that of instability and deterioration. Such an attitude will help us formulate policies that will greatly contribute to Afghanistan’s stability and prosperity, which in turn will have direct implication on stability, and prosperity of the region.

We are fully committed to further maturing this process in the interest of regional cooperation and regional peace and prosperity. We will continue to build upon the progress made thus far, and set the stage for a successful 4th Ministerial Meeting of the Istanbul Process in China. I wish to express our gratitude to the Peoples Republic of China for their leadership in hosting the Ministerial in 2014.

I look forward to our dialogue and to your active participation and engagement in this process in a spirit of openness and cooperation.

Thank you!