Response on Agenda Item: Regional Cooperation Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing of China London Conference on Afghanistan
(London, 1 February 2006)
Prime Minister Tony Blair,
Security and stability in Afghanistan cannot be achieved without economic development. And development is possible only in a peaceful and stable neighborly environment.
Regional cooperation is therefore an effective approach for the international community and Afghanistan's neighbors to help it become stable, develop and integrate into the international community.
As regional economic integration accelerates, sub-regional cooperation of various forms in Central and South Asia is becoming increasingly active, which include the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC), the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) of Central and Western Asia, the Euro-Asia Economic Forum, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia. They have brought countries in the region together and enhanced the political trust and win-win progress among them.
To speed up Afghanistan's engagement in regional economic cooperation, I wish to make the following proposals:
First, set priorities for regional cooperation. Afghanistan is uniquely located where Central, Western and South Asia meet. To enhance trade and personnel exchanges, China proposes that a regional transport network be considered as a priority in future cooperation. China would like to host a workshop for road transport experts from Afghanistan, China and South Asian countries next year.
China and the five Central Asian countries are planning to link a new Eurasia Land Bridge, which, known as the modern Silk Road, will connect Europe and Asia. China supports Afghanistan's participation in the regional transport cooperation and is ready to assist the China-Tajikistan-Afghanistan road project, thereby extending the new Eurasia Land Bridge to Afghanistan.
Second, bring existing mechanisms of regional cooperation into full play. This region already has many cooperation organizations which are well structured and cover broad areas. All parties should adopt an incremental and practical approach, make full use of existing mechanisms and platforms and bring into play their respective political and economic strength and ensure that more substantive progress is made in cooperation. Last year, Afghanistan joined the CAREC and SAARC. The SCO-Afghanistan contact group was officially set up. These are positive and practical developments. China encourages Afghanistan to catch the train of regional cooperation, so to speak. This year, the SCO will have a summit in Shanghai, and China is consulting the parties concerned about inviting President Karzai to the meeting. This year, China will also host the 5th CAREC Ministerial Meeting which focuses on cooperation in transport, energy and trade. We hope to strengthen effective cooperation with Afghanistan in this framework.
Third, follow up on assistance commitments made to Afghanistan. The Afghan Government has sought closer regional cooperation, and the international community responded warmly at the meeting on regional economic cooperation held in Kabul last December. I also wish to recall the Kabul Good Neighborly Relations Declaration issued in December 2002, and in particular, the Declaration on Trade, Transit and Inward Investment signed in Dubai in September 2003. The two documents not only embody Afghanistan's political commitment to advancing regional cooperation with its neighbors, but set forth specific and attainable goals such as facilitating trade, transit and investment. They are essential for enhancing regional cooperation, and it is important to follow up on them in order to bring real benefits to the Afghan people.
Fourth, step up security cooperation. Security is key to success in regional cooperation. Terrorist, extremist and separatist forces are still rampant in the region and we must give priority to combating them. The SCO has instituted an effective cooperation mechanism in fighting the aforementioned three forces. As the rotating presidency of SCO, China welcomes active participation of Afghanistan in SCO cooperation. China will work to promote closer security cooperation among various parties in drug control, counter-terrorism and border control through SCO as a platform, thus creating a favorable environment for regional cooperation.
The future of Afghanistan concerns peace, stability and development of every country represented here, our region and indeed the world. Let us join hands and work closely to build a better future.