Remarks of H.E Salahuddin Rabbani Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan at the Regional Integration and Prosperity Side Event of the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan

EU HQ,-  4 October 2016

In the Name of God the most beneficent most merciful

H.E. Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

H.E. Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, Chief Executive of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

H.E. Neven Mimica, European Commissioner for International Cooperation & Development

Honorable Ministers,

Distinguished Delegates & Regional Representatives,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honor to be here at this very important side event of the Brussels Conference, on Regional Integration and Prosperity. Launching the discussion of regional integration, at the European Union headquarters, helps us look at the successful example of integration in Europe.

For some, the European model may seem too idealistic for South and Central Asian region; but the reality is, we were once the ancient route of trade, transit and network.

The countries in our region were on the crossroads of the Silk Road. Our culture, economy and trade integrations were unimaginable.

Our region was the hub for global economic activity, and the source of cultural and knowledge enrichment. However, it is unfortunate to see how distant we have become from that reality today.

Our geopolitical variances have kept us to be the least economically integrated region. Today we have the leading global economies in this region, with a large population of youth, but we are still having the highest unemployment and illiteracy rate, and our people live in poverty.

This implies that we have a tremendous amount of challenges that need to be acknowledged and addressed.

Distinguished Delegates,

We must utilize the economic growth in our region, to help our youth get educated and employed; and improve the lives of our poor. The lessons of the 21st century have taught us that we must create alliances and cohesions among us. The era of protectionism and isolation is over, and we must welcome globalization.

For any region, a successful integration requires consensus and agreement on common objectives and interests. It is very evident that our common interest and objective is the same; which is the prosperity and betterment of our people, and peace in our region.

It is the time to work towards that common interest and objective, and leave our geopolitics aside to attain regional economic integration.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Trade and transit plays a major role in the economic integration. Afghanistan as the core for the ancient Silk Road’s trade and transit has an essential position. Afghanistan has the potential to become the means of providing access to ports in Central Asian nations via Charbahar and Gowadar ports.

Afghanistan, as the roundabout of Asia, can help economic integration of the entire region by economic net increase, which then can play a significant role in reducing our daunting poverty.

Regional cooperation is the basis for Afghanistan’s foreign policy. We believe seclusion has no place in the modern international relations. Afghanistan sees its development and prosperity linked to the development and prosperity of the whole region. And today our cordial approach towards neighboring countries, and countries beyond our immediate neighborhood, is a strong demonstration of such aspiration.

With the support of our neighboring countries, the regional organizations, and international supporters; we have taken proactive steps in our regional economic integration efforts, which is evident in multiple regional mega projects that we have initiated. We are active participants in many regional platforms such SAARC, ECO, CAREC, Colombo Plan, and others for the purpose of a better integrated Afghanistan.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

To strengthen trust and promote confidence through sustained interaction in our region, the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process has emerged as a platform for regional security, economic and political cooperation; and because of geo strategic location of Afghanistan, the participating and supporting countries put Afghanistan as the center of this process.

The Heart of Asia process brings immediate and extended neighbors as well as international supporters together, to implement its goals.

It is important that we don’t undermine the political will of national governments. We are passionate and committed for an enhanced regional economic cooperation and integration; particularly in the areas of trade, transit, infrastructure, energy, private sector development, and Business-to-Business cooperation with our neighboring and regional countries.

Recently, with the announcement of China’s “One Belt One Road” Afghanistan will be along the corridor connecting Tajikistan via Sher Khan Bandar to Islam Qala connecting with the Islamic Republic of Iran.  Similarly, the Turkmen railroad reaches Afghanistan border of Aqina, paving the way for the Lapis Lazuli Corridor; where it offers an alternate route for goods from China, as well as imports and exports from Afghanistan to Europe via Turkmenistan and the Caspian Sea.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Afghanistan’s geo-strategic location as the land bridge between Central and South Asia alone offers the region with limitless transit trade opportunities. It helps the shipment of goods and services in the region. In addition, Afghanistan’s untapped natural resources offer significant economic opportunities for the region.

Investment in this area will not only help the region with job creation and supply of raw materials, it will also add value to the overall economic growth cycle.

It is therefore, time for us to address our main challenges, and pave the way for future growth and prosperity. The rise of insecurity and terrorist activities in our region and the world is a severe threat that requires our joint efforts. The security threat has unfortunately diverted our attention.

It is proven that insecurity and poverty are very interconnected. When there is unemployment, low socioeconomic incentives, and low literacy rate; there is tendency towards extremism and high probability for political instability.

Distinguished Friends:

In conclusion, I would like to thank you all for your participation, engagement, and commitmenttoday. Your presence today and your enthusiasm indicate your strong backing for a prosperous Afghanistan.

Thank you!