Office of the President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

11/10/2020 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 11/10/2020 06:23

President Ashraf Ghani’s Remarks at the Virtual Meeting of the...

President Putin, excellencies;

We meet at a time of exceptional global turbulence, with the specter of Covid-19 haunting our interconnected world. Allow me to express our deepest sympathies to Shanghai Cooperation Organization member and observer countries for the loss of life and livelihood of their fellow citizens.

Let me thank President Putin for focusing our attention on strengthening and further development of cooperation within the framework of the SCO to overcome Covid-19 and other threats.

SCO has a unique opportunity to accelerate the transformation of Euro-Asia into a continental economy through economic, political, and security cooperation. This is key to overcoming the threats and generating the momentum for global recovery and sustained growth.

Positioned at the heart of Asia, Afghanistan is right at the center of the untapped potential that could bring enhanced prosperity and peace to the region. Estimates show that peace in Afghanistan could enhance the rate of growth of our neighbors by 1 to 2 percent.

Having been at the point of intersection of famed Asian roads, ranging from the grand trunk and lapis lazuli to silk and spice roads, we were an Asian roundabout, where goods, ideas, and people flowed freely and civilizations enriched each other.

By location, history outlook and choice, we are poised to provide a platform for regional and global cooperation, especially by connecting Central, South and West Asia to and from East Asia by land, and by air and digitally. Realization of this vision, however, requires collective action against forces of disorder, particularly drug traffickers and terrorist networks that are bent on destroying us to exploit our location for the pursuit of their delusions.

We, the people and government of Afghanistan, have chosen to overcome the past. Your consensus, distinguished leaders, to support the quest of the Afghan people to achieve peace and prosperity within the constitutional framework of our Islamic Republic will have positive consequences not only for us, but also for the realization of the Euro-Asian open moment in history.

We were fortunate to contain the first wave of this pandemic. National focus and regional and international cooperation have been critical to our efforts. Domestically, we mobilized the government rapidly: articulating a clear delineation of the phases into acknowledgement, diffusion, adversity, relief and recovery; redirecting resources; mobilizing the public; coordinating with the private sector; and providing direct support to 4.5 million households, nearly 90% of our population. Regionally, keeping the supply chains open was our top priority.

We gratefully acknowledge the cooperation of Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey on the Lapis Lazuli corridor; Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, China and Tajikistan in keeping the railway and food supply chains open on the silk. India provided over one- hundred thousand tons of wheat at a time when markets were jittery through the Chabahar corridor and kept the air corridor open.

Iran opened its transport corridors and offered free medical assistance to Afghan refugees, resulting in a very significant slowdown in the flow of returnees. Pakistan gradually opened the transit and introduced a more liberal visa regime. These timely actions enabled the markets to fully function, allowing for delivery of basic goods, particularly food, across the country.

We also gratefully acknowledge international support, particularly of Asian Development Bank, the European Union, IMF, the World Bank, the U.S. and other partners for our health sector. We look forward to expanding this cooperation. And we look very much forward to working with SCO on containing the second wave.

We are poised to accelerate large projects of regional connectivity and commence new ones. CASA-1000, the Khawaf-Herat railway, Aqina-Andkhoy railway, TAPI, TAP, fiber optics and the 1000 megawatts project from Uzbekistan to Afghanistan will all start construction in Afghanistan or be completed next year. We will be seeking joint financing with Uzbekistan for the Mazar-Kabul railway and expand our rail network significantly.

We have signed a memorandum of understanding with Fortescue Metals Group to transform Afghanistan into a center of green industry through production of 20,000 megawatts from hydro and use it to produce zero emission steel and other products from an estimated $1 trillion mineral resources.

We are also poised to develop 70,000 megawatts from wind and 220,000 megawatts from solar.

Multi-alignment, whereby we enhance our alignment of interests with all our regional and global partners but avoid becoming a party to their disagreements and disputes, is the guiding principle of our foreign policy. Mutual interest, respect and trust will enable us to achieve the end state of a sovereign, united, peaceful and democratic Afghanistan, capable of expanding the gains of the past 19 years. To realize this objective, we must face the evolution of violence and warfare.

We are living, and dying, inside the 5th wave of global terrorism, in which global terrorist networks are closely linked with global criminal organizations - particularly drug and human traffickers-making warfare totally unconventional and peace-building even more challenging. We are ready and able to expand our cooperation with SCO members and observers in counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics.

Although our Air Force, Commandos, and Special Forces account for 10% of our National Defense and Security Forces, we spend 48% of our resources on them. Their capacity and capability is such that 98% of Counter Terrorism operations are now Afghan-led. We are proud that we have dealt with threats against our and your countries consistently and decisively.

State to state cooperation within a regional and global framework is key to dealing with all terrorist networks attempting to disrupt peace, progress and cooperation. Dealing with the threat of narcotics, of concern to every parent and family, requires a framework where the responsibilities of producers, processors, suppliers of pre-cursors, transit hubs, traffickers, financiers, and consumers are clearly delineated. As drug addiction has become a serious problem in our own society, we are ready to deal with this regional and global challenge with a true sense of urgency.

Though we are facing multiple forms of turmoil, peace remains our most urgent and important priority. As a state and society, we have demonstrated the commitment, compassion and courage to make hard decisions to start direct talks and negotiations with the Taliban.

Unfortunately, not only the promised reduction of violence and comprehensive ceasefire has not been realized, but the violence by the Taliban has increased substantially. The inhumane attack on Kabul University, regardless of who claimed responsibility, is a symptom of the cult of violence and reliance on drug production, and smuggling of our natural capital and cultural heritage as sources of funding that requires a reality check.

The principles of equal rights of citizens and a republic enshrined in our Constitution establish the grounds for a peaceful integration of the Taliban into the polity, economy and society of a democratic Afghanistan.

Opinion surveys consistently show 75 to 85 percent support for the Republic while support to Taliban ranges from 4 to 8 percent. Imposition of the will of a minority on the absolute majority can only lead to prolonged conflict.

As respect for sovereignty is a cardinal principle of SCO, we ask all of you to support a sustainable peace process within the framework of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

Disruption of the constitutional order will have massive negative implications for the SCO, among them disruption of the formation of the Euro-Asian continental economy and expansion terrorist and criminal networks.

UN Security Resolution (2513), for the adoption of which we thank you, is an excellent guide to conducting peace-talks. A strong consensus within the SCO will enable us to reach to an agreement on the process of making peace. Building peace, where refugees and displaced people are reintegrated and all components of the nation truly reconciled, will require strong state capacity and dynamic market momentum to lift us from poverty to moderate prosperity.

We are in a truly open historic moment. Our four decades of suffering, particularly for our women and children, can end. Please harness the Shanghai spirit to overcome the tragic past and create the future of cooperation together.

I congratulate President Rahmon on assuming the presidency of SCO and thank again President Putin for the excellent coordination.

Thank you.