Astana Session on Afghanistan Makes An Important Step to Bonn Conference
Nov 15. MFA
The willingness of the international community to further cooperate to bring lasting peace and development to Afghanistan marked the atmosphere of the 12th Session of the International Contact Group (ICG) on Afghanistan held on November 15 in Astana. The transition in responsibility for security in the country by 2014, the process of domestic reconciliation, and the outlines of the forthcoming Bonn Conference were among the main issues raised at the meeting.
The Astana session brought together about 130 delegates from 39 countries, including the Foreign Minister of Afghanistan Zalmai Rassoul, Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan and the chairman of the ICG Ambassador Michael Steiner of Germany, as well as special representatives from the United States, the UK, Italy, Spain and other countries, as well as representatives of regional and international organizations, including NATO, the European Union, and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
“As the International Security Assistance Force withdraws from Afghanistan and its Government prepares to take over full responsibility for maintaining security throughout the country in 2014, we should make sure, through joint efforts, that the steady flow of international aid into the country continues. We need to ensure further humanitarian and economic assistance and to promote political dialogue within the country,” Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister Yerzhan Kazykhanov said in his opening remarks.
He added that Kazakhstan, in its turn, has been consistent in providing social and humanitarian aid to Afghanistan in the bilateral format, as well as supporting it politically within international organizations such as the OSCE and the OIC.
“Over the past years, we have been consistently providing food aid. We have implemented a number of large-scale social projects, and we have introduced scholarships so that young Afghans could train to acquire peaceful professions at Kazakhstan’s universities,” he said.
Kazykhanov also highlighted the importance of “real reconciliation negotiations among all Afghan forces” for establishing normal political environment, stability, and development in the country. (The full text of his remarks is available on www.mfa.kz).
“Our meetings in Jeddah, Kabul and today here in Astana, along with our discussions within the Working Groups have been an important part of preparations for the successful holding of the Bonn Conference early next month,” Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul said. Afghanistan of 2001 and 2011 are two different countries, Rassoul said, as he highlighted the achievements of his country in a wide range of areas throughout this period. Still, the Afghan people aspire for peaceful life and “crave and deserve sustainable peace, stability, and security,” he said. Thus, more work is necessary to combat terrorist networks and safe havens in Afghanistan, continue peace and reconciliation efforts with the Taliban leadership, and further implement both security and economic transition in the country, according to the Afghan Foreign Minister.
The Afghan side also presented key points it would like to see discussed at the Bonn Conference, which would contribute to the latter’s effectiveness, Rassoul said at the press conference following the Astana session.
Thanking Kazakhstan for the constructive role it is playing in the regional and world politics, Germany’s special envoy on Afghanistan Michael Steiner said that the main issue at the Astana Session was to outline the Bonn Conference, which would be the biggest forum Germany had ever hosted on its soil, involving 65 Foreign Ministers and heads of international organizations.
The Astana session began the process of concrete preparations for the Bonn Conference, while allowing the international community to discuss the present state and prospects of the areas instrumental to Afghanistan’s prosperous future, such as the domestic reconciliation, security transition, and economic development, according to Steiner.
Taking place ten years after the first conference on Afghanistan, the Bonn Conference, however, will not be as much about the past, as it will be a look into the future, Steiner said. The vision on the country for the next ten years will be the major point of discussion of the meeting, he added. “The main message of the Bonn Conference will be: “We, the international community, will not leave Afghanistan alone in the future,” Steiner said, concluding his remarks at the press conference.
It is obvious that no single country can solve the problems of Afghanistan alone. The international community should, therefore, be consolidated on this issue more than ever. In this sense, the work of the special representatives from the states and international organizations within the ICG and their constant attention to the problems in Afghanistan are highly commendable,” the Kazakhstan foreign minister said in his turn. “We strongly wish that the main dream of the Afghan people, to see peace and development prevail over war and destruction in their country, comes true.”
One day earlier, on November 14, Kazakhstan’s Prime Minister Karim Massimov met the Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul to discuss bilateral relations and trade and economic cooperation. The same day, Rassoul was received by his Kazakhstan counterpart, which led to “a very constructive discussion of bilateral relations, as well as the situation in the region and the world,” according to Rassoul’s statements following the meeting. “During the talks, we confirmed our intention to purposefully expand and deepen the bilateral cooperation, based on the principles of friendship, respect, and mutual benefit,” Kazykhanov said.
The International Contact Group on Afghanistan was established in 2009 at the initiative of the Special Representative of the United States for Afghanistan and Pakistan the late Ambassador Richard Holbrooke. The ICG includes delegates from approximately 50 countries and international organizations, including some 15 members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. Eleven meetings have been held prior to the Astana session in Munich, Tokyo, Istanbul (twice), Trieste, Paris, New York, Abu Dhabi, Madrid, Rome, Jeddah, and Kabul.