Thank you, Chair for giving me the floor.
I also warmly welcome Markus Müller back to the Permanent Council and I thank him for his comprehensive report. Having spent a part of his professional career in Afghanistan, he knows very well about the current needs, opportunities and challenges in the country and in our region.
As one of the largest OSCE field operations, the Office is tasked with a broad range of activities. Afghanistan highly appreciates the work of the Office, supporting initiatives that address specific issues, including capacity-building programmes. Ongoing co-operation and possible future collaboration covers such diverse areas as border management; police reform; de-mining; counter-terrorism; de-radicalization; fight against corruption; water management and energy security; improvement of Afghanistan’s investment climate and promotion of free trade; human rights and empowerment of women; rule of law; and election reform. Regional co-operation is a main pillar of Afghanistan’s foreign policy and the Office in Tajikistan plays a key role in our collaboration with the OSCE.
In particular, we appreciate the Office’s work through the Border Management Staff College (BMSC) in strengthening our and our neighbor’s border agencies’ capacity. We commend the successful conclusion of the second phase of the patrol programming and leadership project (PPL), where almost 500 Tajik and Afghan border officers received training over a two year period, and we look forward to the implementation of the third and final phase of the PPL to include instructors from Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Due to the extra-budgetary nature of the project, while acknowledging funding cutbacks due to OSCE’s engagement in Ukraine, we would like to encourage all participating and partner States to contribute and support the project. As Markus Müller mentioned, this project has been made a priority of the work of the Office in 2016.
Since June 2014, four women from Afghanistan attended courses at the BMSC and it is our hope that this number can be increased in the coming years.
As far as the security situation in northern Afghanistan is concerned, as mentioned in the report and raised by some delegations this morning, I wish to point out that the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) are successfully conducting operations against the Taliban and other anti-governmental groups, which are supported by regional and international terrorist groups. Our forces have proved their capability to control the situation. Afghanistan enjoys excellent brotherly relationships with all its northern neighbors, the OSCE participating States of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan and we are working closely together to address all mutual concerns. Also, the Government of Afghanistan is in close contact with relevant security mechanisms such as NATO and CSTO to develop strategies in response to current security matters, including the emergence of terrorist activities. Let me seize this opportunity to express our hope that the four Tajik border guards abducted by Taliban terrorists in December last year can be freed soon.
Another essential area of co-operation between the Office and Afghanistan is demining. We appreciate the fact that Afghan participants were included in regional co-operation activities in the area of mine action and we are grateful that due to this collaboration almost 120,000 m² of mined areas along the Afghan-Tajik border were cleared.
Afghanistan was also invited to send experts to a peer review process concerning UNSCR 1540, organized by the Office in Tajikistan, the Centre in Bishkek, the FSC support unit and UNODA in Bishkek.
We look forward to the conference on the security situation in Afghanistan, to be hosted by the BMSC this month.
Afghanistan also appreciates the Office’s support toward establishment of a Free Economic Zone (FEZ) located along the Tajik-Afghan border, as well as consultations to trade participants and the work of the Cross Border Market Resource Centres, in particular toward anti- corruption.
In conclusion, let me once again thank Markus Müller for his and his team’s excellent work, also in terms of reminding participating States of the need for sustained engagement in Afghanistan and our region, and for his comprehensive report.