Regional countries want Taliban to enter talks with Kabul
PESHAWAR (Pajhwok): : The fifth Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process conference concluded in Islamabad on Wednesday, expressing the resolve to bring all factions and the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table and calledfor blocking financial assistance to terrorists.
All the member states attending conference reaffirmed their commitment to the principles and objectives of promoting regional peace and prosperity with collective efforts.
“We reaffirm our commitment to the principles, objectives, and outcomes of these conferences that have defined the parameters for the working of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process aimed at promoting regional peace and prosperity,” the participants said in the declaration.
Foreign ministers and high-level representatives from participating and supporting countries, as well as international organisations from over 30 countries, attended the event.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani addressed the opening ceremony of the fifth Ministerial Conference.The process was started in 2011.
The participants believed that the pace of continuity demonstrated by the Heart of the Asia-Istanbul Process, in the past a few years would continue in future, and the endeavours made under its auspices would manifest themselves in the achievement of goals of lasting peace, security, prosperity and growth of the region.
Through the joint declaration, they reaffirmed the respect for each other’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and political independence, as enshrined in the United Nations Charter to which they strongly adhered to and reiterated the obligations of states to refrain in their international relations from the threat, or use of force, against the territorial integrity, or political independence of any state, or in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations Charter.
Recognising the centrality of the United Nations in international affairs, they reiterated their support to the United Nations in coordinating international civilian efforts to contribute to peace, security and development of Afghanistan, as established by UN Resolution.
They also adhered to the principles of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other states and committed to promote a multifaceted approach of regional integration based on trust, equality and dialogue.
The participants of the fifth Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process realised the importance of the conference as an important regional initiative and platform aimed at a stable, peaceful, prosperous and developed Afghanistan that continues to complement other existing regional mechanisms and processes.
They also recognised that the situation in Afghanistan, owing to its central location at the crossroads in Asia and its history, played a critical role in the dynamics of regional peace, security and economic growth.
They said that they believed in a secure, peaceful, stable, and prosperous Afghanistan, with its strong commitment to human rights which was not only in its own interest, but also vital to peace, stability and prosperity of the ‘Heart of Asia’ region as a whole, for which it was collective responsibility to help and support Afghanistan in combating the challenges it faced.
They also assured to support the Government of Afghanistan’s constructive approach towards regional engagement and its commitment to build an environment of trust and confidence throughout the region.
They considered the conclusion of International Security Assistance Forces’ (ISAF) Mission in Afghanistan, an important step towards Afghan self-reliance and noted the initiation of the non-combat post ISAF Mission focusing on training, advising and assistance to Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) and hoped it would, therefore, contribute to the early realisation of peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region.
They also commended the hospitality of Pakistan and Iran in hosting millions of Afghan refugees, for the last three decades, despite their own formidable challenges and limitations and urged the international community to provide them with adequate support.
They welcomed the initiatives Afghanistan-Pakistan-UNHCR and Afghanistan-Iran-UNHCR Tripartite Commissions on voluntary repatriation of Afghan refugees from Pakistan and Iran respectively.
They urged the international community to provide adequate and sustained support and assistance including within the framework of the solutions strategy for Afghan refugees to enable their voluntary, safe, and dignified repatriation and sustainable reintegration and resettlement in Afghanistan. They urged the Afghan government to take necessary measures to facilitate this process in close cooperation with host countries.
They recognised that the beginning of the transformation decade, aimed at self-reliance of Afghanistan, marked an important milestone in its history.
While reaffirming commitment to Afghanistan’s independence and sovereignty, they reiterated their support for Afghanistan as it ushered in the new era of regional connectivity as enunciated by President Ghani.
They urged the international community to stand by its commitment made during the London Conference, of continued financial support to Afghanistan’s national unity government, through 2017.
In this regard, they noted with appreciation the agreement by the European Union to host the next Afghanistan Development Ministerial Conference in Brussels in 2016.
They renewed their support for Afghanistan which is beginning to emerge as a stable democracy, which is continuing to develop a resilient security force, and is visualising a reformative economic agenda as goals for the transformation decade.
Regarding countering security threats they recognised that terrorism and violent extremism were constant and serious threats to regional and international peace, security, stability and economic growth, and that Afghanistan was one of the countries at the forefront of the war against terrorism, fighting regional and international terrorist groups and safeguarding the region against the spread of terrorism.
They reiterated their agreement that terrorism, extremism and separatism, and linkages among them, posed a serious challenge to many countries, as well as the region and beyond, which could only be addressed through concerted efforts. They believed that achieving peace and security, as well as regional integration, was a shared responsibility, in which each country must play its role for its own benefit, as well as for the collective benefit of the region.
The participants of the fifth Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process conference also welcomed Afghanistan’s determination and efforts in steering the process of the conference towards creating a peaceful and secure region.
Since the security of the countries of the Heart of Asia region were intertwined, they believed that supporting Afghanistan’s efforts in fighting terrorism was vital for safeguarding the region against terrorism. They resolved to eradicate the menace of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. While recognising the importance of international cooperation and coordination, any measure taken by states to prevent and combat terrorism must comply fully with their obligations under international law and the United Nations Charter.
They committed to put into practice specific measures and steps necessary for countering and eliminating the menace of terrorism, all terrorist organisations, in particular al-Qaeda, Daesh (ISIL) and their affiliates, and any support to them and their enabling networks in the region.
They recognised that extremism facilitated, encouraged and justified acts of terrorism and violence, therefore, they undertook to introduce measures to curb the spread of violent extremism and the promotion and encouragement of violence as a means of achieving political objectives.
They also committed to put in place, specific measures and take necessary actions to deny terrorists’ access to financial and material resources, to dismantle their sanctuaries and training facilities, and to curtail their ability to recruit and train new terrorists.
They were of the view that measures to curb terrorists’ movements should also be established without prejudice to trade and legal movement of citizens and goods.
They gave credence to the idea of resolving conflicts through peaceful negotiations and urged full support by member countries to the Government of Afghanistan in implementing Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace and reconciliation initiatives, and realising its peace objectives.
They urged all Afghan Taliban groups and all other armed opposition groups to enter into peace talks with the Afghan government. They believed that terrorism, transnational criminal narcotics and weapon networks, were serious regional challenges, therefore, tackling them was the need of the hour.
They recognised that a considerable share of the terrorism financing sources consisted of revenues obtained from drugs production and its trafficking. Therefore, they resolved to begin the process of identifying and countering each of these threats at national, regional and international levels.
Highlighting the acuteness and global scale of the illicit drug threat, they resolved that appropriate international efforts aimed at intensifying measures were required to fight illicit production of drugs and their precursors and their trafficking, especially in the Heart of Asia region.
In this regard, they resolved to intensify existing counter narcotics activities in the region. They realised that the emerging security challenges were not confined to a particular country and had the potential of expanding to the entire region, if timely measures were not taken.
They stressed the need for adopting a coordinated and collaborative security and counter-terrorism approach for the region. In this regard, they emphasised the need to explore and evolve a coordinated and collaborated security approach and adopt a common counter-terrorism strategy and programme.
Therefore, in accordance with instructions to senior officials in Beijing, they tasked the Heart of Asia relevant senior officials to hold a meeting, in the first half of 2016, on security issues and counter-terrorism measures.
They realised the need for generating financial resources, developing logistical support and establishing improved information sharing mechanisms among relevant government institutions responsible for combating terrorism, illicit drug trafficking and managing border security, as part of the comprehensive regional strategy for combating terrorism and encouraging the participants of the Counter Terrorism-Confidence Building Measure to focus on these areas.
On promoting economic connectivity, they were of the view that the region had vast natural resources, immense human potential, and abundant opportunities for creation of capital that, in a well-connected region, could be utilised productively to achieve the goal of sustainable economic growth.
They welcomed the number of infrastructure and energy projects aimed at strengthening regional economies through enhanced connectivity, trade, movement of goods and people.
They believed that it was imperative that regional economic connectivity initiatives improved the lives and welfare of people through improvement in quality of lives, employment generation, ease of access to basic amenities and equality of opportunities for all the layers of the society.
Afghan youth and women were untapped potential resources, which would greatly contribute to the economic and cultural development of the entire region.
They noted the goals and priority projects of Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan-VI, as indicated in its chairman’s statement, and looked to the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process through its two economic CBMs to support their implementation, where possible.
They appreciated the cooperation among regional countries on projects that had the potential of transforming Afghanistan into a transit hub in the Heart of Asia region.
They particularly welcomed the development of North-South and East-West energy, transport and trade corridors, as well as transit hubs and routes in the region and encouraged linkages to be made to them in a manner that they provided maximum regional coverage and benefit.
They understood that easing of customs procedures and policies, and development and broadening of transit trade framework agreements, was imperative for removing bottlenecks and impediments to facilitate smooth movement of goods and increase the economic viability of inter and intra-regional trade. In this regard, a trade-friendly environment needed to be created in the region that ensured compatibility of customs regulations, facilitation of cross-border clearances and reduction in time of legal formalities.
The members of the conference were also convinced of the need to align and bring greater coherence to existing initiatives that aimed to strengthen regional connectivity.
They looked to the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process to play a constructive role in achieving this goal.Regarding the confidence building measures, the participants considered that those measures were important tools to link the Heart of Asia countries at various levels.
They appreciated all the lead countries’ efforts in organising different meetings, for all six CBMs this year, and recalled commitment under Article 25 of the Beijing Declaration which states: “We acknowledge the important role played by the Regional Technical Groups (RTGs) in prioritising and following the CBM activities. In this context, we ask the lead countries of each CBM to at least convene two of these meetings each year, one within two months of each ministerial conference and the second no later than four months prior to the following ministerial conference.”
They understood that the Regional Technical Group (RTG) meetings were the vehicles to drive the CBMs forward and delineate the future course of action for CBMs.
They agreed to intensify their efforts in ensuring that the targets set during the ministerial conferences were achieved prior to the next one.
They expressed their commitment to generate positive, tangible and effective results, through the endeavours being made under various CBMs.
They suggested that under each CBM, a continuous series of activities was carried out in specific area, aimed at achieving tangible results, and limiting ad hoc activities to those considered of particular stand-alone value.
The participants of the conference realised that some CBM activities needed financing and allocation of sufficient time as they might yield results over a longer period of time.
They appreciated those supporting countries and organisations that contributed to the implementation of the CBMs’ activities and urged them to enhance participation and contribution in implementation of all the CBMs, in close cooperation and coordination of their efforts with the CBM member states.
The participants gave the task to their senior officials to hold their first meeting within three months of this conference, and engage in political dialogue in accordance with commitments in Beijing, and also to review the plans submitted by the RTGs.
They expressed their appreciation and gratefulness to the Government of Pakistan for hosting the fifth Ministerial Conference of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process in Islamabad.
They welcomed the willingness of India to host the next ministerial conference of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process as co-chair in 2016, and decided to hold the sixth ministerial conference in the last quarter of 2016.
The foreign ministers and high-level representatives of the participating countries of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process including Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Nations attended the important conference.
The declaration was welcomed and supported by representatives of the supporting countries and regional organisations, including Commonwealth of Australia, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, European Union, Finland, France, Germany, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Poland, Norway, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States, Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), Asian Development Bank (ADB), Central Asian Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC), Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), Collective Security Treaty Organisations (CSTO), Economic Cooperation Organisations (ECO), North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC), Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
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