Honorable Members of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Please allow me to extend a very warm welcome to members of the QCG delegations from Pakistan, China, and the United States to this fourth meeting of the group as we jointly strive to make tangible progress in our collective quest for ensuring sustainable peace in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the wider region.
The realization of lasting peace and security remains the utmost priority of the Afghan people and the Government. We will continue to pursue all available and possible avenues to ensure this noble and rightful demand of our people for a dignified peace that strengthens our constitutional system. We also appreciate the goodwill and support of our neighbors, friends and allies in this endeavor. It is in this context that we continue to attach particular importance to the work of the QCG.
The work of this group is at a critical stage. We have managed to make tangible progress on a framework in our work so far, including the adoption of terms for the group’s work and the Roadmap document as well as the consensus to ensure direct talks between representatives of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and authorized representatives of Taliban groups.
I am confident that our discussions today will build on the progress of our previous meetings in Islamabad and Kabul. Following the consensus reached during the third meeting in Islamabad earlier this month, we would like to see the group outline the details of the expected direct talks between the Government of Afghanistan and Taliban groups before the end of February.
As we have done so in the past, we renew our call on all Taliban groups to join these Afghan-led and Afghan-owned talks so we can find political solutions and put an end to the violence and bloodshed in our country. The most recent such clear and principled call came in recent key statements of H.E. President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and H.E. Chief Executive Dr. Abdullah Abdullah.
As His Excellency President Ghani said on 15 February, and I quote, “I call on Taliban groups, the Hezb e Islami led by Mr. Hekmatiyar and other opponents to join the caravan of peace. We will welcome and embrace every group opposed to us that is prepared to live with us in peace and brotherhood. Now that the overall framework and Roadmap for peace have been prepared, this is the best opportunity for the opponents to abandon their hostilities and armed opposition against their compatriots. If the goal is political participation, our Constitution bars no ones path. We clearly state to our opponents that we believe in peace as part of our faith and belief.”
The priority that the Afghan government attaches to a political process is based on and derives its legitimacy and support from the overwhelming consensus in Afghanistan — both inside and outside the government — on a meaningful, serious, results-oriented peace and reconciliation process. The appointment of the chairman of the High Peace Council, H.E. Pir Syed Ahmad Gillani and his deputies will significantly bolster the efforts of the High Peace Council to further strengthen and consolidate this national consensus in Afghanistan on peace with Taliban groups through a political process.
The work of the High Peace Council under its new leadership will be a continuation of our national quest for peace and stability in Afghanistan, including the prominent legacy of the leadership and personal sacrifice of Martyr of Peace, Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani the first Chairman of the High Peace Council. It was he who outlined the vision and program of action for the High Peace Council and laid down the foundations of its work, which I also had the honor of leading for more than three years. Therefore, there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind — Taliban or otherwise — that the Afghan people and government are serious and sincere in seeking a political resolution to the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan with all its internal and external dimensions.
At the same time, as we continue our sincere efforts for peace on behalf of the people of Afghanistan, we will continue to defend Afghanistan and defeat all those forces bent on turning the clock back in Afghanistan on our historic political, social and developmental achievements. The consensus and unity of our nation on preserving and expanding these gains is beyond any doubt. We will not allow these gains to be threatened in any way. Nor will we relent in our actions to put an end to the violence perpetrated against the men, women and children of this country on an almost daily basis.
The same resolve will continue to apply to those who continue to disregard our sincere and genuine call for peace, and who intend to undermine our efforts to consolidate the hard-earned gains of our people.
We must also acknowledge another fundamental truth: that the menace of terrorism is not a phenomenon limited to Afghanistan; it has its clear regional and international dimensions and linkages, and poses grave threats to people and states well beyond Afghanistan and Pakistan. In this context, we believe that the QCG’s collective and specific actions and measures to advance peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan at the earliest will also help our ongoing common fight against terrorism in the broader region.
We therefore attach great importance to the work of the QCG in support of peace and reconciliation efforts in Afghanistan. Going forward and building on the work we have done so far, we look forward to clear and decisive practical steps to meet our shared commitments outlined in the Roadmap in its letter and spirit, in a timely and consistent manner.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Among other confidence building measures in this process, we need to see a significant reduction of violence against the Afghan government and people as critically important, and a key determinant and test for the work of this importance mechanism and our overall efforts in support of a results-oriented peace process in Afghanistan. In this regard, and as we commence and continue talks with those Taliban groups who are choosing the path of a political process, it will be a key test of our common resolve and commitment to undertake all necessary measures to squeeze and shrink the space in which violent armed groups opposed to peace and reconciliation are active, including decisive actions aimed at eliminating their access to sanctuaries and support systems.
Those elements of the armed groups who continue to refuse to join the peace talks, and continue the path of violence must realize that our message to them is clear: our brave security forces will not hesitate in their resolve to fight them resolutely, wherever they are, to stop them from committing terror, violence and bloodshed.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The role of Afghanistan and our neighbor Pakistan continues to be central and most critical to the success of our joint efforts. In this context, we also hope that this meeting can reach agreement on early initiatives between Afghan and Pakistani Ulema in support of peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan and against violence and terrorism directed at the people of Afghanistan and the region. Pakistan’s support to the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation efforts are not only critical in this process but also crucial to our sincere and serious endeavors to build greater trust and confidence in all facets of our vital relationship based on mutual respect, shared interests and concerns.
I would also like to take this opportunity to underline the fact that peace in Afghanistan is not just the aspiration and desire of the Afghan people. Peace in Afghanistan is indeed also crucial and a pre-condition for peace and stability in the region. It is for this reason that we in Afghanistan also call on all our other neighbors and major countries in the wider region to continue extending their understanding and support to these Afghan government-led and owned peace efforts. On our part, we will also continue to take all our regional partners into confidence on peace efforts in order to maintain and further strengthen the existing regional and international consensus and support towards peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are hopeful that the continued and dedicated work of the QCG going forward will set the Roadmap we have adopted into motion towards steady implementation. We have all invested heavily in this process, which has generated renewed hope for a successful outcome to our joint peace efforts. We, therefore, have a unique opportunity before us. So let us do what we must with strong resolve, sincerity and courage to fulfill our commitments and deliver on the promise of achieving lasting peace in Afghanistan.
Thank you, and I wish you all a successful meeting.