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Politics

The Heart of Asia- IP ministerial conference stresses ‘strengthening consensus for peace and development”

By: Monitoring Desk

The 9th ministerial conference of ‘The Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process’ was held in Dushanbe on 29th and 30th of March 2021. The meeting issued a declaration at the end stressing ‘strengthening consensus for peace and development’. The full declaration is as follow:
Preamble
We, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and high-level representatives of the Participating Countries, joined by the high level representatives of the Supporting Countries and of the Supporting Regional and International Organizations, having met in Dushanbe, Tajikistan on 30th March 2021 at the 9th Ministerial Conference of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process (HoA-IP), under co-chairmanship of H.E. Sirojiddin Muhriddin, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Tajikistan and H.E. Mohammad Haneef Atmar, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan;
We express our gratitude to H.E. Emomali Rahmon, President of the Republic of Tajikistan and H.E. Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan for inaugurating the 9th Ministerial Conference of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process;
Recalling the previous Ministerial Declarations of the HoA-IP and reaffirming our commitment to the principles, objectives, and outcomes enshrined in the Declarations for promoting peace, security, and prosperity in Afghanistan and the Heart of Asia Region;
Reaffirming that the HoA-IP is an important platform led by Afghanistan for enhancing dialogue and building trust among regional countries. The HoA-IP promotes regional political, security and economic cooperation with the goal of building peace, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan and the entire region;
Stressing the need to advance regional cooperation and dialogue as effective and necessary means to address common challenges and to promote security, stability and socio-economic development in the Heart of Asia Region, and renewing our commitment to strengthening enhanced cooperation through various combinations of bilateral, trilateral and multilateral processes among Participating and Supporting Countries in an effective manner;
Admiring the cooperation and solidarity of the countries and organizations participating in the HoA-IP, during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the assistance provided;
Peace, Political and Security Cooperation
We support the ongoing efforts for the peace process and the continuation of the negotiations between the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban. While recognizing the importance and contributions of neighboring countries and regional and international partners, we call upon them to maximize their efforts for the success of the peace process;
We acknowledge that long-term stability and prosperity in the region require peace and security in Afghanistan, and therefore the region as well as the international community has a shared responsibility and common interest to work together for promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region as a whole;
We welcome the renewed diplomatic efforts by all countries to accelerate the peace process through a meaningful peace negotiation, including the ongoing negotiations in Doha, the Moscow “Troika plus” meeting, and diligent preparations for a high-level meeting in Turkey. We also support the enhanced role for the UN in the peace process, and in this regard, welcome the recent appointment of the UN Secretary General’s personal envoy to Afghanistan and the surrounding region;
We recognize that a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire will enable all sides to reach an agreement on a political settlement, and in this regard, we affirm that any political settlement must protect the rights of all Afghans, including women, youth and minorities. It should also respect the strong desire of Afghans to achieve durable peace and prosperity, and must respond to their strong desire to sustain and build on the economic, social, political and development gains achieved since 2001, including respect for Afghanistan’s international obligations;
We condemn the continuing high level of violence in Afghanistan, especially the high number of civilian causalities and deliberate targeting of civil service employees, civil society activists, human rights defenders, journalists and media workers by the Taliban and terrorist groups. While condemning in the strongest terms, all terrorist activities in all forms and manifestations as being criminal and unjustifiable; we emphasize the need for an immediate, permanent and comprehensive ceasefire, resume meaningful peace negotiations and full respect for International Humanitarian Law;
We also express our concerns about the continued relations between the Taliban and international terrorist groups, including Al-Qaida as outlined in the twenty-seventh report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team of the United Nations Security Council (S/2021/68). While taking note of the recent announcement made by the Taliban to have ordered its members across Afghanistan not to allow foreign fighters in their ranks, we reaffirm the importance of ensuring that the territory of Afghanistan is not used as safe havens for any terrorist groups, foreign terrorist entity, including Daesh/ISIS, Al-Qaida or other regional and international terrorist groups and their affiliates, including those referenced in the previous HoA Declarations;
We commend the sacrifices and achievements of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) and in the fight against international terrorism, and we emphasize the importance of supporting the Afghan Government in capacity building, in particular of the ANDSF, in securing their country and in the fight against international terrorism;
We remain determined to counter all forms and manifestations of terrorism and extremism by reinforcing our collective efforts. We reiterate our resolve to work together to prevent and suppress terrorist acts through increased regional and international solidarity and cooperation, in accordance with the UN Charter and obligations under international law, including international human rights law, international humanitarian law, and where applicable the international refugee law, as well as through the full implementation of the UN Security Council Resolutions. In this regard, we strongly call for concerted regional and international cooperation to ensure dismantling of terrorist sanctuaries and safe havens, preventing and interdicting the movement of terrorists and terrorist groups, including foreign terrorist fighters, across the countries of the HoA Region and anywhere else, as well as disrupting all financial, tactical, logistical or any other form of support for terrorism without any distinction;
Counter Narcotics
We are concerned about the high level of illicit cultivation and production of opium in Afghanistan, the volume of drug trafficking, illicit drug trade, trafficking of precursors, the new prevalence of methamphetamine, the rising demand for illicit narcotics and the rising drug abuse in the HoA Region and beyond. This poses a threat to the socio-economic development, security and stability not only in Afghanistan, but also in the surrounding region and the world as a whole. Further eradication of opium cultivation, promotion of alternative livelihoods, law enforcement, prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and public information efforts are required as part of a comprehensive and integrated strategy to address this common challenge, based on the principle of common and shared responsibility, and consistent with the international drug control Conventions;
We call upon the international community to continue to assist the Government of Afghanistan in implementing its National Drug Control Strategy and National Drug Action Plan and its efforts to eliminate the cultivation and production of, trafficking in and consumption of illicit drugs, increase support for Afghan law enforcement and criminal justice agencies, agricultural and rural development for the creation of improved alternative, licit livelihoods for farmers and demand-reduction support, increase public awareness of counter-narcotics issues and build the capacity of drug control institutions, and care and treatment centers for drug users. We also stress the urgent need to respond to the serious challenges posed by the nexus between revenue from illicit narcotics and financial support for anti-government actors and terrorist entities in Afghanistan and the HoA Region. We appreciate efforts to strengthen capacity of law enforcement, border control and other relevant agencies to counter illicit drug production and trafficking in the HoA Region, including through training projects and activities under the auspices of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime;
Refugees and Returnees
We commend countries in the region and beyond for their hospitality and support in hosting millions of Afghan refugees for four decades. We acknowledge the role of regional and neighboring countries in particular Iran and Pakistan in hosting Afghan refugees for such a long time and call for creating conducive conditions in Afghanistan for voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable repatriation. In respecting the well-being and human rights of the refugees, we urge the international community to continue to assist host countries in taking care of the essential needs of Afghan refugees and to provide support to the repatriation and reintegration efforts of the Government of Afghanistan and targeted assistance for their voluntary, safe and dignified repatriation and their sustainable reintegration in Afghanistan, with emphasis on youth, education and livelihoods;
Economic Cooperation
We welcome the Afghanistan National Peace and Development Framework II, aligned with the Afghanistan Partnership Framework as part of the new aid architecture adopted at the 2020 Afghanistan Conference in Geneva, setting out the strategic policy priorities of the Government of Afghanistan and guiding its reform activities within the three pillars of Peace-building, State-building and Market-building, in the pursuit of increased self-reliance by the end of the Transformation Decade in 2024;
We appreciate the long-term partnership and commitment of the international community for supporting the Government and people of Afghanistan and stress the crucial need for continuation of such support for achieving a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan based on their renewed mutual commitments, as agreed upon at the 2020 Conference on Afghanistan;
We reaffirm that regional economic cooperation and integration offers broad opportunities for socio-economic development, and can assist with exploiting and developing the long-term economic potential that exists in Afghanistan and the wider region, and we stress the need for further advancing regional economic cooperation as an effective means to achieve lasting peace, stability and economic prosperity in Afghanistan and the HoA Region;
We welcome the joint efforts of Afghanistan and the region to enhance dialogue and collaboration in advancing economic development in Afghanistan and across the HoA Region, including measures to facilitate regional connectivity, trade and transit, expand consular visa cooperation, and facilitate business travel, expansion of trade, increase the foreign investments and development of infrastructure, including infrastructural connectivity, energy supply, transport and integrated border management, with a view to promoting sustainable economic growth and the creation of jobs in Afghanistan and the region;
We acknowledge the historical role of Afghanistan as a land bridge in promoting regional connectivity and economic integration in the HoA Region, and we recall that such regional economic cooperation plays an important role in achieving stability and development in Afghanistan, in this regard we urge all relevant stakeholders to create a feasible and secure environment for the full implementation of these development initiatives and trade agreements. We also welcome the progress made by these initiatives and projects, and call upon all regional countries to facilitate trade and transit;
We recognize the important role of Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA) as a regional platform for promoting economic cooperation in Afghanistan and the region, and in this regard, we support the implementation of the priority regional projects as outlined under the Declaration of RECCA-VII. We look forward to the next RECCA Ministerial Meeting to be held in the second half of 2021 in Tashkent, the Republic of Uzbekistan;
We also recognize the important role of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group, ECO, CICA, CAREC and SAARC as platforms for cooperation between Afghanistan and the region;
Regional and International Organizations
We recognize the important role of regional organizations supporting different areas of cooperation under the HoA-IP and underline the need to strengthen the relations of HoA-IP with other regional organizations;
We recognize the central and impartial role of the United Nations in promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan and express our appreciation for all efforts of the Secretary-General and his Special Representative for Afghanistan through the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA); We appreciate the continued efforts by the OIC and its Member States in support of the Afghan Peace Process and their call for an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire. We also welcome the declarations of the Muslim countries calling for an end of violence and calling the ongoing war and bloodshed in Afghanistan religiously illegitimate;
Confidence Building Measures
We realize the importance of the Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) as the key element for enhancing trust and practical political, security and economic cooperation in the HoA Region, and in this regard, we urge the Participating Countries to continue the implementation of the CBMs;
We commend the Government of Pakistan for holding the first Regional Technical Group (RTG) Meeting of the Agriculture Development CBM, and call upon the lead countries of the 8 CBMs to convene the RTG Meetings in a timely manner as decided previously;
We appreciate the valuable support of the international community to the HoA-IP. In this context, we look forward to continued contributions of the Supporting Countries and Organizations to realize the implementation of activities prioritized under each CBM;
We endorse the Implementation Plan for the new Women Empowerment CBM and the amended Implementation Plan for Disaster Management and Environmental Protection CBM, and appreciate the work done by the co-chairs in regards;
We welcome the World Bank as a new Supporting Organizations of the Process;
Conclusion
We task our Senior Officials to hold the next Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) of this Process, within three months of this Conference, to implement and follow up on the decisions made in this conference;
We express our sincere appreciation to the Government of the Republic of Tajikistan for hosting the Ninth Ministerial Conference of the HoA-IP in Dushanbe. We welcome Afghanistan for hosting the Tenth Ministerial Conference in 2022;
This Declaration was adopted in Dushanbe on 30 March 2021 by the Foreign Ministers and high-level representatives of the Participating Countries of the HoA-IP: Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Republic of Azerbaijan, People’s Republic of China, Republic of India, Islamic Republic of Iran, Republic of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Russian Federation, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Republic of Tajikistan, Republic of Turkey, Turkmenistan, the United Arab Emirates, and Republic of Uzbekistan;
This Declaration was welcomed by the high-level representatives of the Supporting Countries and Supporting Regional and International Organizations of the HoA-IP: Commonwealth of Australia, Canada, Kingdom of Denmark, Arab Republic of Egypt, Republic of Finland, Republic of France, Federal Republic of Germany, Republic of Iraq, Republic of Italy, Japan, Republic of Poland, Kingdom of Norway, Kingdom of Spain, Kingdome of Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), Asian Development Bank (ADB), Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), European Union (EU), North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and the United Nations (UN).

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