Afghan deputy foreign minister Ershad Ahmadi on Thursday said the peace process was important for this year’s peaceful and successful security and political transition in Afghanistan.
“It is no secret that the active participation of our regional partners, particularly Pakistan, is crucial in making substantive progress in this area,” Ahmadi told a meeting of the International Contact Group (ICG) on Afghanistan-Pakistan in New Delhi.
He said President Karzai’s strong rapport with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had laid a solid foundation for bilateral relations between the two neighbours. “We urge our regional and international friends to support our efforts towards a practical and effective peace and reconciliation process.”
He said the larger issue of regional security was inevitably linked with peace in Afghanistan and that there was a wave of terrorism and radicalism sweeping through the region.
“Most recently our friends in Russia and China have witnessed the unfortunate consequences of this in their respective countries. This is an escalating regional problem which necessitates a comprehensive regional solution.”
He said his country was ready to work together with its regional allies to define and deal with the forces that drove radicalization and terrorism in the region.
“We must cooperate to restrict the physical movement of terrorists within our borders, and, we must destroy the sources from which such forces draw their sustenance.”
“This is a crucial yet enormous undertaking which I look forward to discussing in more detail as part of the political consultation on regional security during tomorrow’s senior officials meeting of the Istanbul Process.”
About the bilateral security agreement (BSA) with the US, Ahmadi sad the partnership between Afghanistan and the US should not be driven by political timelines, but by a strong foundation and strength of their relations.
“By voicing their unanimous support for continued American presence in Afghanistan, the Afghan people have sent an unprecedented message of friendship and partnership directly to their American counterparts.”
He stressed Afghanistan’s international friends should recognise the BSA was not a mere logistical or planning instrument for Afghanistan. “It is a critical – existential, if you will, – document with important long-term implications for the country.”
But the collective endorsement from Afghans came with certain expectations as issues like the release of Afghan prisoners from Guantanamo Bay or the launch of a peace process with the Taliban were important considerations, which could not be overlooked, he explained.
He said they believed the deal could be the linchpin of peace and security in Afghanistan and the region, but there were also concerns it might prolong the violence and instability.
He said the concerns were strengthened by the opening of a Taliban office in Qatar and by misleading suggestions that the Taliban would gain considerable influence in a few years despite signing of the BSA.
“President Karzai’s desire to lay such fears to rest once and for all is precisely why he insists on a launch of an effective peace process with the Taliban as soon as possible.”
Ahmadi said if their efforts at launching a peace process did not yield the necessary outcome within the desired timeframe, Afghanistan was prepared to work with American friends and regional partners on a mechanism leading to a consensus on the unity and integrity of the Afghan state.
“Such a consensus would provide the necessary assurance that Afghanistan will continue to have one government, one geography and one flag, and will not be subjected to a rule of fiefdoms or parallel systems of government.”
“This type of assurance will surely pave the way for Afghanistan and the United States to sign the bilateral security agreement in a timely manner.”
On 2014, Ahmadi said it must be a year of peace for Afghanistan. “It must be the year that Afghanistan is placed on a stable path toward democratic governance and normal development.”
He said violence and instability that continued to afflict their country had severely hindered developmental goals and the lack of economic prosperity in turn further fuelled the cycle of violence and instability.
“2014 is a watershed year for Afghanistan. Notwithstanding the fears or ‘doomsday’ narrative that some are falling victim to, we are confident that Afghanistan will not destabilize after the drawdown of international troops.”
He said Afghanistan would continue to strengthen its partnerships with the international community, particularly with the United States and would have a timely, peaceful and democratic political transition in April.
“We see 2014 as the year that the collective wisdom of the Afghan people will prevail and our leaders will rise to the occasion to steer our country into the post-2014 transformation decade.”