At the Ninth Ministerial Conference of
The Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process
Dushanbe, 30 March 2021
Your Excellency President Emomali Rahmon,
Your Excellency President Ashraf Ghani,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to attend the ninth Ministerial Conference of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process via video link. At the outset, I wish to thank the co-chairs, Tajikistan and Afghanistan, for preparing this Conference. While some of us could not attend the Conference in person due to COVID-19 or other reasons, I believe we all share a strong desire and firm resolve to advance peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. I would like to wish this Conference a full success and positive outcomes.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the launch of the Istanbul Process. Over the past decade, thanks to the full support of all parties concerned and the broader international community, this multilateral cooperation mechanism has played a constructive role in promoting peace, stability and development in Afghanistan and the whole region. With the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan standing at a crucial juncture, there is a rare, historic opportunity for a political settlement of the Afghan issue. In this sense, the theme of this Conference, "Strengthening Consensus for Peace and Development", is most fitting and meaningful. Peace is an urgent priority and a prerequisite for development; development is a perpetual pursuit and a guarantee for peace.
The Istanbul Process involves all of Afghanistan's neighbors and major countries in the region, as well as many international players supportive of the Process. Under the changing circumstances, the role of this mechanism in making peace, promoting development and building consensus has become all the more important. China expects all parties to deepen cooperation in the following three areas:
First, sustaining the momentum of peace talks and reconciliation in Afghanistan. The Intra-Afghan Negotiations have started. This is a hard-won progress. The Afghan issue can only be resolved by political means, and the future of Afghanistan should be kept in the hands of the Afghan people. All parties to the peace talks must act with a sense of responsibility to history, to the people, and to the country. They must stay confident and patient, and strive for broad-based, inclusive and durable peace through sincere dialogue and negotiations. International supporting parties should abide by the "Afghan-led, Afghan-owned" principle, put aside self-interests, uphold fairness and justice, and contribute more positive energy to the peace and reconciliation process.
Second, adding impetus to reconstruction and development in Afghanistan. While Afghanistan has made big strides in economic and social development in recent years, it lacks internal drivers of growth. All parties should provide more targeted support for Afghanistan to enhance its capability of independent development, get integrated into regional economic development, and grow into a hub of connectivity and a bridge of economic integration in the heart of Asia. Currently, the implementation of the China-Afghanistan MOU on Belt and Road cooperation is well underway, and China has provided several billion yuan in grant to Afghanistan. During the COVID-19 pandemic, China has delivered multiple batches of medical supplies and emergency food assistance to Afghanistan, and will soon provide free vaccines to Afghanistan. China will continue to host the Vice Ministers' Meeting on Trade and Connectivity with Afghanistan and Central Asian countries, in a bid to create more development opportunities for the Afghan people.
Third, keeping to the overall direction of counter-terrorism cooperation regarding Afghanistan. Terrorism is a serious challenge for countries in the region and a common enemy of humanity. It will be ill-advised to follow double standards in counter-terrorism, as they will backfire at the end of the day. All parties need to join forces and double down on fighting terrorist organizations like Al-Qaida, ISIS and the ETIM until they are completely eliminated. Foreign troops should withdraw from Afghanistan in a responsible and orderly way, so as to prevent the various terrorist forces from ramping up and creating trouble. In this context, China will continue to strengthen coordination and deepen cooperation with all other parties concerned.
China is a friendly neighbor of Afghanistan. We will continue to do the best we can to support, mediate and facilitate Afghanistan's peace and reconciliation process. We will work in concert with all other parties of the Istanbul Process and the international community to bring peace to every corner of Afghanistan at an early date and deliver the benefits of development to the entire Afghan people. With our joint support and help, Afghanistan will embrace a brighter future.