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Let Us Join Hands to Promote Security and Prosperity of Afghanistan and the Region

Updated: Oct 31,2014 8:38 PM     english.gov.cn

Speech by H.E. Li Keqiang

Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China

At the Opening Ceremony of the Fourth Ministerial Conference of the Istanbul Process on Afghanistan

Beijing, 31 October 2014

Your Excellency President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai,

Distinguished Foreign Ministers and Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Friends,

It gives me great pleasure to attend the opening ceremony of the fourth Ministerial Conference of the Istanbul Process on Afghanistan together with President Ashraf Ghani. Let me extend, on behalf of the Chinese government and people and in my own name, welcome to President Ashraf Ghani, distinguished foreign ministers, guests and friends and warm congratulations on the opening of the conference.

Since its inception in 2011, the Istanbul Process has become a unique regional cooperation mechanism on Afghanistan and offered an important platform for countries in the region and the wider international community to enhance communication, understanding, coordination and cooperation on Afghanistan. Continued progress of the Istanbul Process will help bring about an early solution to the Afghan issue and the ultimate attainment of durable peace, stability, and economic and social development in the region.

The fourth Ministerial Conference is the first important international conference on Afghanistan since the elections in Afghanistan. We hope that this conference will send a clear signal of strong support of countries in the region and the international community to a smooth transition, security and development in Afghanistan, reiterate their long-standing commitment to peace and reconstruction there, and demonstrate their full confidence in the future of the country.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Friends,

Afghanistan holds an important geographical position as it connects South Asia, Central Asia and West Asia, bordering China to the east. A shining pearl on the ancient Silk Road, Afghanistan was once where civilizations met and numerous kingdoms left their marks in history. More than 2,100 years ago, Zhang Qian, an envoy of China’s Western Han Dynasty, recorded an Afghanistan bustling with traveling merchants and trade caravans. The Gandharan art, once flourishing in Afghanistan and Pakistan, is known across the world and had great influence on the murals and sculptures in ancient China.

The Afghan issue has been a regional and international hot spot issue since the end of the 1970s. The international community deeply sympathizes with the Afghan people who have suffered from turmoil and war over the past 30 years and more. Afghanistan is now at a crucial stage of political, security and economic transition. The Afghan people now face new opportunities to realize unity, stability, peace, reconstruction and development. Meanwhile, the task remains formidable and daunting.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Friends,

A united, stable, growing and friendly Afghanistan is what the Afghan people hope for and it represents the common interests of countries in the region and the international community. It is important that we vigorously support Afghanistan’s peace process and its reconstruction, and work for an early solution of the Afghan issue, as this is the unshirkable and common responsibility of countries in the region and the international community at large. Here, I wish to raise five points regarding the settlement of the Afghan issue.

First, Afghanistan must be governed by the Afghan people. This means that the Afghan people should be allowed to take their destiny into their own hands and truly become the masters of their country. In the end of the day, Afghan affairs should be managed by the Afghan people. We believe that the Afghan people have the ability and wisdom to run their own affairs well and ultimately achieve peace and stability in the country. The international community should truly respect the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Afghanistan, refrain from interfering in its internal affairs, and firmly support Afghanistan in its efforts to achieve security and stability at home.

Second, promote political reconciliation. As a Chinese saying goes, “Harmony at home brings prosperity.” The Afghan people long for peace and stability. A torn Afghanistan fraught with internal strife will not be able to come out of the war or poverty. To achieve durable peace and prosperity in Afghanistan, it is imperative to promote a broadly-based, inclusive political reconciliation. We call on all political parties in Afghanistan to leave behind past grievances, join the political reconciliation process, and discuss ways to achieve peace and development of their country. The international community should support an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process, and create an enabling external environment for peace and reconciliation to happen in Afghanistan.

Third, speed up economic reconstruction. Stability underpins development, while development guarantees stability. Poverty and backwardness breed extremism. Only when economically developed, will Afghanistan ensure its people a prosperous and happy life. Only commitment to growing the economy can lead to improved lives of the people. There is an adage in China, “Give people fish and you feed them for a day. Teach them how to fish and you feed them for a lifetime.” The international community should fulfill its assistance commitment and help Afghanistan enhance its self-development capacity and realize sustained economic development.

Fourth, explore the path of development. Afghanistan faces daunting tasks of rebuilding itself from the ravages of prolonged war and turbulence. It now stands at a crucial stage of national development. The unique history, culture and the national realities of Afghanistan have determined that there is no ready development model for it to copy. The future path of Afghanistan must be identified by the Afghan people in light of national realities. The international community should respect the right of Afghan people to independently choose social system and development path, so that they can develop a way of governance that suits their national conditions and achieve enduring political stability and sustained economic development.

Fifth, provide stronger external support. Without support and assistance from the international community, especially from regional countries, Afghanistan will not be able to achieve genuine peace and stability. The international community should give firm support to Afghanistan in developing external relations on the basis of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit and, in particular, in strengthening good-neighborly relations with other countries in the region. It should support Afghanistan in taking an active part in regional and international cooperation to integrate more deeply into regional economic cooperation. It should help Afghanistan with security capacity-building and support the United Nations in playing a leading role in coordinating international assistance so that assistance efforts from various parties may complement and reinforce each other and form synergy.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Friends,

China and Afghanistan have been neighbors from generation to generation. “Neighbors wish each other well, just as family members do.” Peace and stability in Afghanistan have a direct bearing on China’s security and stability. The Chinese government has firmly supported and actively participated in the Afghan peace and reconstruction process. Since 2001, China has exempted Afghanistan’s matured debts, provided 1.52 billion RMB yuan of grant assistance, and built a number of major projects to the benefit of the Afghan people’s livelihood. That included the Kabul Republic Hospital, Parwan Hydraulic Project Rehabilitation Work, the National Education Center of Science and Technology, and the complex of the Chinese Language Department of Kabul University. China has also trained more than 1,000 Afghan professionals in various fields. China will continue to provide necessary assistance and support to Afghanistan, do what it can as a neighbor and fulfill due responsibilities of a big developing country.

— China firmly pursues a policy of friendship with Afghanistan, and remains committed to deepening mutually-beneficial cooperation with Afghanistan in various fields and promoting steady progress of the Strategic and Cooperative Partnership between the two countries.

— China firmly supports Afghanistan in advancing the peace and reconciliation process, and will continue to play a constructive role in this process.

— China firmly supports peace and reconstruction in Afghanistan, and will help Afghanistan, not in words but with concrete actions, to enhance capacity-building for independent development. China is ready to step up cooperation with Afghanistan in such areas as infrastructure, agriculture, water conservancy and the exploration and utilization of mineral resources. China has decided to offer Afghanistan grant assistance of 500 million RMB yuan this year, and 1.5 billion RMB yuan in the coming three years. China will also train 3,000 Afghan professionals in various fields and offer 500 scholarships in the next five years. China will continue to expand security training and assistance to Afghanistan.

— China firmly supports Afghanistan in joining regional cooperation to the benefit of increased trade, closer economic cooperation and greater connectivity in the region. China wishes to see Afghanistan fully leverage its geographical and resource advantages, and actively participate in China’s Silk Road economic belt initiative. China’s competent departments will send working groups to have thorough consultation with Afghanistan on specific cooperation programs. China takes and will continue to take an active part in the cooperation on Confidence-Building Measures (CBMs) within the framework of the Istanbul Process, and plans to hold training sessions on counterterrorism, counter-narcotics and disaster management for Afghanistan this year.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Friends,

The Afghan issue is vital to the well-being of the Afghan people. It also concerns the people in the region and beyond. To the Afghan people who have suffered enormously from war and turbulence and who look forward with great expectation to the future, nothing is more important and valuable than understanding, support and help from their neighbors and friends. Today, the foreign ministers and senior representatives from 46 countries and international organizations, including members, support countries and guests of the host country of the Istanbul Process, are gathered in Beijing to discuss important measures to achieve peace, development and security in Afghanistan and in the region as a whole. This in itself sends a positive signal to the whole world: we have a common goal, which is to achieve peace, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan at an early date; and we have a common vision, which is to help Afghanistan, a shining pearl once, to regain its splendor at an early date.

As an Afghan proverb goes, as long as there is determination to climb to the mountain top, one is always able to find a path. We in China also have a saying, that is, a thousand-mile journey begins with the first step. This Ministerial Conference of the Istanbul Process on Afghanistan marks a good beginning for Afghanistan-related regional and international cooperation in the new era. And I believe it will yield positive results with our in-depth discussions and consultations. Let us work together and make continued and unremitting efforts for sustained development, security and prosperity in Afghanistan and in the region as a whole.

I wish the fourth Ministerial Conference of the Istanbul Process on Afghanistan a complete success.

Thank you.

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