H.E. President Karzai,
Distinguished Minister Resul,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me start first by expressing my gratitude to H.E. Hamid Karzai for honoring our conference with his presence.
It is a pleasure to be here in Kabul today and to co-chair the Follow-up Conference of the Istanbul Process which was initiated about eight months ago in Istanbul, with a vision for a better future for our region.
I would like to thank brother Zalmay Resul and his able team led by First Deputy Minister Jawid Ludin for the hard work they have carried out in taking forward the Process, including the preparation of the concept paper and hosting preparatory meetings in Kabul. I would also express my gratitude to our Turkmen brothers for hosting a meeting of the Senior Officials in Ashgabad.
We are indeed very content to see that our neighbors and friends are sharing this regional cooperation vision in a spirit of regional ownership. We have come a long way since the Kabul Declaration on Good Neighborly Relations of 2002 where the region and Afghanistan’s neighbours voiced their desire for peace and stability for the first time.
Our region has unique characteristics. It is rich in terms of human resources, cultural heritage as well as economic potential. The history and the future of the countries in the region are intertwined. Indeed, Afghanistan is situated at the Heart of Asia, so that its surrounding region could not be secure and wealthy without a safe, stable, and prosperous Afghanistan.
We strongly believe that the positive energy that has been mobilized through the Istanbul Process will enhance the existing efforts for a stable and prosperous region.
In this era in which problems have gained a transboundary nature, we all suffer from complex challenges which cannot be dealt by any single country. These problems can only be overcome through regional ownership and cooperation. We have common interests in countering terrorism, extremism and narcotics. The success or failure of one regional country in standing up to these and other challenges inevitably creates impact on other regional countries. That is why we need ever developing regional cooperation.
Developments since the Istanbul Conference in November 2011 have been very encouraging. This meeting will become a milestone in our collective efforts when the first set of the confidence building measures, namely those seven selected to be implemented, are endorsed today.
However, we should also bear in mind that the Istanbul Process is not only about the technical implementation of confidence building measures. It has been and should continue to be a consultation forum, which provides us a valuable opportunity for enhanced political dialogue.
I wholeheartedly believe that gathering around a table for discussion, looking each other in the eye, is in itself a confidence building measure.
Moreover, the Process could serve as a platform for creating new synergies among various existing regional efforts with a view to achieving a more effective cooperation in the security, economic, cultural, education and legal fields, placing Afghanistan at its core.
As such, with our common efforts, the developing Istanbul process will consolidate its place as a unique platform. Given its comprehensive membership, the Istanbul Process, brings the Heart of Asia countries together with regional organizations, the United Nations and other interested partners as supporters; all of which have sincere desire to contribute to the stability and prosperity of Afghanistan and its surrounding regions in a constructive manner.
In this journey, Turkey will of course continue to support Afghanistan in leading this process. Regional cooperation, in fact, is one of the priorities of the Turkish foreign policy. This vision is also reflected in our Trilateral Summit Process with two brotherly countries Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Feeling myself in my second home, I would like to thank our Afghan brothers who kindly suggested me to co-chair this important conference. It is a distinct pleasure for me to see such a high-level participation, pledging to take forward the Istanbul Process with sincere intentions. We are confident that the Process will continue in the same spirit of dialogue, cooperation and dedication in the years to follow.