The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is holding a summit in Astana, Kazakhstan. More than 60 world leaders and their representatives traveled to Kazakhstan to attend the event. Here is audio and text (of prepared remarks) of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s speech at the meeting. Watch the speech here
--------FULL TEXT OF PREPARED REMARKS
Excellency President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Excellency Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, Excellencies Heads of State and Government, Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of the people of Afghanistan, may I extend my cordial gratitude to President Nazarbayev and the brotherly people of Kazakhstan for the very warm hospitality extended to us. I also like to express my gratitude to the chairmanship for assigning Afghanistan a high priority on the OSCE’s agenda over the past one year.
Mr. Chairman, under your able chairmanship, the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has made considerable progress and has taken important steps in areas such as security, environmental protection and combating organized crime.
Afghanistan appreciates the increasingly close relationship with the OSCE since being granted the status of partner State in the year 2003. The 2007 Madrid Ministerial Council decision on OSCE engagement with Afghanistan marked a milestone in the extension of our co-operation. Officials from concerned ministries of Afghanistan have benefited from a number of valuable programs. Another good example has been the OSCE contribution in sending observers to Afghanistan’s elections, fighting against organized crimes and helping build the capacity of our border security forces.
Excellences, After three decades of war and destruction, Afghanistan has entered a new phase of its political, social and economic life where most of the OSCE member states are supporting us in our efforts for reconstruction, capacity building and counter terrorism. Afghanistan has achieved considerable progress in developing a vibrant economy, strengthened state institutions and rebuilding infrastructure, empowering institutions of public service particularly health, education and promotion of rule of law.
We believe all these achievements give us the strength and determination to prepare Afghanistan to gradually take over the responsibility for providing its own security within the next four years.
During the deliberations of the NATO Summit in Lisbon last month, we agreed with NATO and ISAF member states that the process of transition to Afghanistan should be completed by the end of 2014. The agreement with the international community to hand over responsibility to Afghans does not mean an end to our continued cooperation with NATO. We will continue to need support from NATO and regional countries against the common threats we all face.
Mr. Chairman, Excellencies, International terrorism is a major threat to Afghanistan, our region and the world. Afghanistan is the first and foremost victim of this menace. While the Afghan people are keen participants of the campaign against terrorism, they are suffering the consequences of 30 years of war and instability. It is the utmost wish of the Afghan people to see peace and stability in Afghanistan. To that end, the Afghan Consultative Peace Jirga in July 2010 recommended that a High Council for Peace be formed to pursue peace and reconciliation. We hope that the international community and our neighbors will support Afghanistan in bringing peace to our people.
Mr. Chairman, Three decades of war and instability resulting in the destruction of our state institutions and economy have contributed to the growth in the production and trafficking of narcotics. We have made considerable progress over the past nine years in reducing poppy cultivation. While hundreds of traffickers and smugglers have been apprehended and are serving prison terms, hundreds of our security forces and civilians have lost their lives in this cause.
A study carried out by the UNODC indicates over forty percent drop this year in production of narcotics in Afghanistan. It is widely recognized that the present threats and challenges we are facing in Afghanistan are to a great extent symptoms of a much larger malady, widespread in our region and beyond.
An effective fight against the menace of narcotics therefore requires a cohesive international approach to effectively deal with the international drug trafficking, smuggling of precursors and supply and demand networks.
Ladies and gentlemen, Afghanistan shares common borders with three OSCE member countries. While our region is exposed to international terrorist and criminal networks, we believe that in addition to the bilateral cooperation between Afghanistan and the three OSCE member states in our neighborhood, we need to bolster our regional cooperation in order to reach the OSCE objectives.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, for Afghans, regional cooperation remains a key for effective regional integration. For this purpose, we are focusing on a number of projects of significant importance such as energy, roads and railway networks through Afghanistan to the region. These projects will connect Central Asia through Afghanistan to the Indian Ocean, the Persian Gulf and beyond. Toward this goal, Afghanistan is making strenuous efforts and working on a number of special programs including the transmission of gas and electricity from Central Asia to Afghanistan and the neighboring South Asian Countries.
Regional transit and trade is another key area that we must continue to focus on. We believe that a more vibrant transit and trade environment in our region not only contributes to the economic development of the entire region, but also serves as an important tool for regional integration. Annual imports from the neighboring and regional countries to Afghanistan are worth billions of dollars. Infrastructure development in Afghanistan has facilitated the way for goods to travel through the country and therefore serves as an important element for regional economic growth.
Mr. Chairman, I want to take this opportunity to thank you and the people of Kazakhstan for the provision of 1000 scholarships for our young Afghan students.
I am confident that Afghanistan will remain a priority on the OSCE’s agenda in 2011. I, once again, would like to thank the people and government of Kazakhstan for their warm reception and for organizing this important event. I conclude my statement by wishing you all a successful meeting.