World Bulletin/News Desk
Afghanistan is at a critical stage in its history, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said at the İstanbul Process on Afghanistan conference on Friday in Kazakhstan, with Afghan security forces preparing to take over security and military issues from foreign troops, a great many of which are to leave the country by the end of next year.
The next two years will be formative years for Afghanistan, given not only that NATO-led International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) will leave the country within a year and a half, but Afghanistan will also hold presidential elections in April of next year.
Meanwhile, to further complicate matters, the peace process the Afghan government has been trying to launch doesn't seem to be welcomed by the Taliban.
Noting that the Istanbul Process is the response of the region to shared challenges faced by the region as a whole, “A region that has Afghanistan firmly integrated into it can face these challenges more confidently and effectively,” Davutoğlu said.
At the end of the conference, a Declaration of the Almaty Conference was prepared and accepted, prescribing that six confidence-building measures -- the fight against drugs; combating terrorism; boosting trade and investment; improving regional infrastructure; advancing education and enhancing disaster management -- are to be put into effect for the development of the region as whole. Economic development is seen as the best method of fighting against the troubles of the region.
Fourteen ministerial and high-level delegations from the Heart of Asia countries -- nations surrounding Afghanistan in the region from India, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Iran to Azerbaijan and China -- got together in their third ministerial conference to pave the way for war-torn Afghanistan to achieve security and stability, while integrating it into regional projects for economic development.
Speakers at the conference often stressed that a credible presidential election in Afghanistan next year is essential for Afghanistan to achieve stability. Besides the elections, the government's peace efforts with the Taliban, as well as economic development for Afghanistan are crucial to strengthening the country.
Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul affirmed that the country is doing its best for the elections to be reliable and free, noting that Afghan security forces can now ensure the safety of nearly 90 percent of the population in the country.
But he complained at the same time that the region is suffering from a lack of sincere cooperation. He didn't elaborate, but he said this is to the detriment of all countries in the region.
Nursultan Nazarbayev, president of Kazakhstan, who inaugurated the third of the Heart of Asia ministerial conferences in Almaty, emphasized that regional countries should boost efforts for the integration of Afghanistan into regional projects so that stability and economic development become possible in Afghanistan.
By converting Afghanistan, a landlocked country, into a hub of energy, pipelines and transportation in the heart of Asia, countries offering support to the İstanbul Process believe that much can be achieved.
The İstanbul Process, launched by Turkey and Afghanistan in November 2011, is important in its bring together all the countries surrounding Afghanistan.
Most of the foreign troops fighting the Taliban under ISAF will leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014, following which some fear a civil war flare up between the Taliban and the Afghan government.
The Afghan Foreign Minister assured everyone that the Afghan government is determined to fight the cultivation of opium.
Efforts to put an end to the civil war in Afghanistan and to urge the Taliban to join the reconciliation process in the country have also increased. In December, Turkey hosted the seventh trilateral summit between Turkey, Afghanistan and Pakistan, in which the presidents of Pakistan and Afghanistan, Asif Ali Zardari and Hamid Karzai, respectively, came together to resolve differences related to the Afghan civil war.
Cooperation and joint projects among countries in the region were widely discussed at the conference, in which 16 ministerial and high-level delegations from countries supporting the İstanbul process, as well as 12 high-level delegations from international and regional organizations such as the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) also participated.
Afghan military and police forces are expected to take over security and military issues in the coming months before the withdrawal of foreign troops. But the approximately 1,800 Turkish troops serving in the country and some of the American troops will remain in the country to support Afghan security forces.
TİKA has carried out more than 800 projects, varying from education to health-related work, in the country since 2004. The United Nations, for its part, provided $900 million in humanitarian aid to Afghanistan in 2011 and $484 million in 2012.Last Mod: 27 Nisan 2013, 10:49