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Opening Remarks by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan H.E. Salahuddin Rabbani at the Sixth Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process Ministerial Conference

Amritsar – India

December 4, 2016

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ

The Honorable Foreign Ministers,

Distinguished Heads of Delegation,

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to extend a very warm welcome to the participating countries, as well as supporting countries and organizations to the Sixth Ministerial Conference of the Heart of Asia–Istanbul Process. This year’s theme of “Addressing Challenges, Achieving Prosperity” couldn’t be timelier, as we gather in the beautiful, historic city of Amritsar to discuss a substantive agenda today.

We are grateful to the Republic of India for co-chairing the Process throughout the year and hosting today’s Conference. While our historical and cultural relationship dates back centuries, India continues to play a significant role in Afghanistan’s stabilization and sustainable development. This is consistent with the goals of Afghanistan-India Strategic Partnership Agreement, under which we have implemented major infrastructure projects such as the building of the Afghan Parliament and the India-Afghanistan Friendship Dam.

Indeed, our progress so far wouldn’t have been possible without the hard efforts of the previous co-chairs and hosts of this important Process. In this regard, we remain grateful to the Republic of Turkey, the Republic of Kazakhstan, the People’s Republic of China, and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

I also want to recognize our esteemed guests attending this Conference: The Austrian Republic, the Republic of Latvia, and the Republic of Uzbekistan. We look forward to facilitating their joining the Heart of Asia Process as participating and supporting countries next year.

At the same time, we welcome with gratitude the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s decision to join and support our collective efforts under all the Confidence Building Measures (CBMs). And we thank the Aga Khan Development Network for joining and supporting the Disaster Management CBM.

Please allow me to extend our sincere gratitude to the Republic of Azerbaijan for accepting to be the co-chair and host of the next Ministerial Conference in 2017.  Given the regional connectivity projects underway—especially in light of the Lapis Lazuli Corridor Agreement to be finalized soon—Azerbaijan’s decision to co-chair this Process is timely and much appreciated.

Excellencies,

Strengthening regional cooperation remains an important pillar of Afghanistan’s Foreign Policy. The Heart of Asia Process has been instrumental in furthering this objective, as it enables all of us to collaborate on a wide range of security and development issues of common interest and concern.

Since November 2011 when we first met, the Heart of Asia region has increasingly recognized the nature of our interdependent fate. This requires that we all work together to stabilize Afghanistan and bolster regional security for unleashing and harnessing our collective potential, which should ensure prosperity throughout the Heart of Asia region.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Despite our gains in this Process, there is much to be done to address the remaining challenges. Lingering security threats posed by terrorism and radicalism remain our primary concern. In this regard, I am pleased to report that the initial draft of the Heart of Asia Counter Terrorism Strategy, which has been drafted in response to Article 25 of the Islamabad Declaration, was shared with all countries participating in the Counter-Terrorism CBM this past October. We are grateful to the Russian Federation and the Republic of Turkey for sending us their feedback, as we encourage others to follow suit soon. This would enable us to finalize the Strategy for endorsement in a High Level Regional Security Conference to be held in Kabul.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

To make the Process more results-oriented, I would like to draw your attention to a progress assessment of the CBMs, which was recently launched by our Regional Cooperation Directorate. I encourage the participating and supporting partners of the Process to study the progress assessment and consider for implementation its vital recommendations. Doing so will go a long way in implementing our common objectives, while addressing Afghanistan’s urgent needs, which each of the CBMs covers.

Once again, I take this opportunity to extend our sincere appreciation to the Republic of India for its remarkable leadership as this year’s co-chair and to Azerbaijan for their willingness to co-chair the Process in 2017. I also appreciate the European Union’s support to the Heart of Asia team at the Regional Cooperation Directorate of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Now, I would like to invite His Excellency Prime Minister Narendra Modi to deliver his inaugural speech.

Thank you.

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