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Ambassador Erfani Delivers Remarks at Europe – Eurasia Leadership Conference 2015

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Vienna, 30.10.2015

From Friday, October 30th to Saturday, October 31st, the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna hosted the Europe-Eurasia Leadership Conference titled “Eurasia and Europe Dialogue: Building Trust and Securing Cooperation for Sustainable Development”. H.E. Ambassador Erfani was invited to the conference and delivered a statement at the close of Friday’s session. Ambassador Erfani spoke on Afghanistan’s 15 years achievements and focused on “Engaging Women and youth in Afghanistan’s Transformation”. He noted that women and youth in Afghanistan will continue to play an important role in Afghanistan becoming a prosperous and peaceful country. The National Unity Government of Afghanistan is committed to bringing women full equality and security and increasing their involvement in development, government and society. Ambassador Erfani remarked on the importance of the work to be done during Afghanistan’s Decade of Transformation (2015-2024), which will be successful due to the commitment of the men and women of Afghanistan. The goals to be tackled include implementing the constitution for a new agenda and reshaping the country and its status in the region and the world. Ambassador Erfani also remarked on Afghanistan’s importance as a bridge connecting the region and beyond for promoting trade, transit and most importantly connecting people and civilizations.  Ambassador Erfani concluded by saying that women and youth are the best hope for peace, sustainability and development in Afghanistan so that Afghanistan is reedy to play its important role as a bridge in the region.

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Statement by H.E. Ayoob M. Erfani Ambassador in Austria Permanent Representative to the UN & International Organizations – Vienna at the UNODC Working Group on International Cooperation (6th Session)

Vienna, 28.10.2015

Mr. Chairman,

As this is the first time that I take the floor, please allow me to join other distinguished delegations to express my sincere congratulations to you on your election as the chair of this working group meeting. I would also wish to thank the Secretariat for the timely preparation of the documents as well as our distinguished panellists for their excellent presentations over the past two days.

Mr. Chairman,

Despite our collective efforts at a global level to counter transnational organized crime, various forms of crime including the new and emerging ones continue to threaten our societies. As it has long been stated, given the transnational nature of most of the crimes, international cooperation in criminal matters is of utmost importance. In this context, we support the work that has been done over the past few years under this working group.

Gathering and sharing electronic evidence as well as the use of liaison officers and police sharing mechanisms are important topics that have been under discussion in this session of the Working Group.  Let me briefly share a few comments on these topics.

Firstly, as stated by the distinguished panellists yesterday, capacity building for law enforcement and criminal justice agencies in dealing with cybercrime and crimes involving electronic evidence including through specialization of such agencies remains key in strengthening international cooperation in this important area.

Secondly, as highlighted, a lack of channels of communication remains a challenge in the area of law enforcement which hinders or slows down exchange of information among countries. We believe that the introduction of liaison officers and use of channels of communication among law enforcement authorities can facilitate cooperation between countries including in preventing and detecting cross-border offences.

We appreciate the efforts made by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) over the past few years in developing a number of tools to assist Member States in taking action against transnational organized crime, including the knowledge management portal (SHERLOC) as well as in redeveloping existing tools, such as the directory of competent national authorities and the Mutual Legal Assistance Request Writer Tool. In this context, we hope that greater efforts will be made to implement the recommendations made by the previous meetings of the Working Group including on the need to further develop such tools with a view to strengthen communication channels and information sharing between countries.

Mr. Chairman,

Afghanistan continues to suffer as a prime victim of the challenges that terrorism, narcotics, human trafficking, migrant smuggling and other various forms of transnational organized crime pose to our country. As a state party to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, the Government of Afghanistan has been actively involved in cooperation at all bilateral, regional and international levels in countering various forms of organized crime and has recently signed extradition agreements with neighboring and regional countries in accordance with its new Law on Extradition. The Government of Afghanistan has also been in the process of negotiating and concluding a number of other bilateral judicial agreements with neighboring and regional countries.

Thank you.

Ambassador Erfani Delivers Statement at the UNODC

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Vienna, 28.10.2015

H.E. Ambassador Erfani delivered a statement today at the sixth session of the UNODC’s meeting of the Working Group on International Cooperation. He noted to the participants that, “Despite our collective efforts at a global level to counter transnational organized crime, various forms of crime including the new and emerging ones continue to threaten our societies.” He stated Afghanistan’s support for the work done over the years by the Working Group on International Cooperation. Ambassador Erfani praised the UNODC for developing tools to help Member States take action in fighting transnational organized crime, such as the SHERLOC knowledge management portal.

Ambassador Erfani stated that, “Afghanistan continues to suffer as a prime victim of the challenges that terrorism, narcotics, human trafficking, migrant smuggling and other various forms of transnational organized crime pose to our country. As a state party to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, the Government of Afghanistan has been actively involved in cooperation at all bilateral, regional and international levels in countering various forms of organized crime and has recently signed extradition agreements with neighboring and regional countries in accordance with its new Law on Extradition. The Government of Afghanistan has also been in the process of negotiating and concluding a number of other bilateral judicial agreements with neighboring and regional countries.” In concluding his remarks, Ambassador Erfani stated that, “Afghanistan is making every effort to build its national capacity to implement its obligations under the relevant regional and international mechanisms to fight transnational organized crime and we will need our partners continued cooperation to this end.”

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Remarks by Ambassador Ayoob Erfani At the National Day Reception on 25 September 2015

Distinguished colleagues, Dear friends

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to thank all our guests – Ambassadors and diplomats, representatives from the United Nations organizations and the OSCE, members of the Austrian Parliament, colleagues from Austrian Federal Ministries and institutions, Municipality of Vienna and the Afghan community in Austria for being with us this evening to celebrate the National Day, the 96th Anniversary of the Restoration of Independence of Afghanistan. The day that the progressive King Amanullah Khan opened a new chapter of the rich history of Afghanistan by introducing a contemporary constitution that enshrined a number of significant reforms and democratic values to form the basis of a modern nation state in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan, as an ancient civilization, has had a prominent role in globally promoting culture and science. Preeminent Afghan personalities including Ibn-e-Sina Balkhi, Mawlana, Zakaria Razi, Khajeh Abdullah Ansari, Rabia Balkhi, Nasser Khosro Balkhi, Allameh Sayed Jamal al-din Afghani, to name but a few, contributed to world civilizations.

At the same time, the people of Afghanistan for the last four decades had to pay a heavy price to protect the county against foreign intervention, terrorism, and imposed wars, but also produced numerous outstanding leaders and personalities who sacrificed their lives for the freedom and independence of Afghanistan.

15 years ago, Afghanistan, with the support of the international community, opened another new chapter of its history and during these years we have made significant progress in laying the foundations and building institutions to establish an independent and democratic state. The National Unity Government, making every effort at the national level and reaching out to our partners in the region and beyond for their continued support to consolidate our achievements and implement our National Priority Programs for the success of Afghanistan’s Decade of Transformation (2015-2024).

To this end, Afghanistan has been actively engaged with the international community and Vienna has proved to be one of the most important capitals for us. Here in Vienna and over the past two years we have made successful efforts to further strengthen the fruitful and friendly relations with the Embassies and Permanent Missions  of our partner countries as well as with the OSCE, IAEA, UNIDO, UNODC, CTBTO, IACA, OFID and other international and regional organizations and I am grateful for their cooperation.

Our relations and cooperation with Austria, which started back in the 1950s, are valuable to us and dynamic. We thank the Austrian Government and people for their support towards Afghanistan’s reconstruction and stabilization process for the last 15 years, and we are grateful for Austria’s generosity in hosting Afghan refugees in this beautiful country.

Let me reiterate that for the past fifteen years, the people of Afghanistan, supported by our partners in the international community, have accomplished tremendous achievements including but not limited to: the creation of equal opportunities for all Afghan citizens, men and women; the establishment of a democratic government; holding of democratic elections on all levels; assumption of responsibility from the international forces; expansion of friendly long-term strategic relations with countries in our region and beyond; provision of education for millions of kids, 40% of whom are girls; progress in the health sector and in the infrastructure with now millions of internet users and the activation of the first Afghan satellite under the name Afghan-1. We are also very proud of our strong, free and independent media landscape, boasting 90 TV stations, 220 radio programmes and 600 print media. Clearly, Afghanistan has made enormous achievements in all social, political and economic areas.

However, we are well aware of the many remaining and emerging challenges in the country, which remain priorities to be tackled by the National Unity Government of Afghanistan.

Dear Guests,

The year 2015 has been an important year for Afghanistan. Since last year when we gathered here in the same venue, Afghanistan has completed the process of Transition and has entered the Decade of Transformation, with both historic achievements and remaining and emerging challenges on our scorecard.

Following the Transition process, the establishment of the National Unity Government has been a great achievement for the country. Representatives of all political parties and ethnic groups are represented in the Government’s leadership. They all had played their important roles over the past fifteen years and remain strongly committed to defend our achievements made during this period and to lead Afghanistan towards a peaceful, stable and democratic future. Shortly after the National Unity Government was established, agreements have been signed with the United States and NATO. The President paid visits to most countries in the region and many other states, explaining the positions of his cabinet and seeking opportunities for enhanced collaboration.

In his inaugural speech, President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani named the thematic main pillars of Afghanistan’s Foreign Policy: 1. our neighboring countries; 2. the Islamic countries; 3. Europe, the U.S., Canada and Japan; 4. the Asian countries; 5. international institutions.

Regional cooperation remains a key element within our foreign policy, and we consider the Istanbul Process, launched in November 2011, as the foundation for confidence-building in regional integration. President Ashraf Ghani participated in the 4th Ministerial Conference of the Istanbul Process, held in Beijing in 2014, where he also emphasized on the importance of regional cooperation. We believe that stability in Afghanistan is interconnected with stability in the region. Therefore, Afghanistan signed agreements on good neighborly relations with our regional partners. We are convinced that together we can and will manage to effectively strengthen peace and security in our region.

The signing of bilateral agreements with the United States, NATO, regional countries and additional states of the international community shall not constitute any threat to other countries and our much-valued friendship with the United States is not intended to affect our friendship with other countries. On the contrary, it is our goal to help build bridges in order to achieve comprehensive and global security, peace and stability.

Our cooperation with all Islamic countries aims at building even stronger relationships. We are grateful for any assistance received from these countries and we hope for strengthened collaboration with the Islamic countries and the OIC in the future, also in terms of our joint fight against terrorism and extremism. It is our hope that all Islamic countries and institutions may unify their positions in this regard.

The government remains dedicated to further strengthen our relations with our partner countries but also with all other friendly nations. By accepting the leadership role of the Istanbul Process and RECCA-VI meetings in 2015, Afghanistan demonstrated the economy-orientated nature of its foreign policy. At the RECCA-VI meeting held in Kabul this month, on 3 and 4 September, delegates discussed a number of crucial topics including railway projects, energy transfer, mine exploitation, expanding trade and economic relations, and upscaling training and technical cooperation to support Afghanistan’s integration in the regional and global economy.

The National Unity Government of Afghanistan also showed its commitment to establish Afghanistan as a hub and crossroads for trade and transit – a connecting point between the Middle East, South and Central Asia. In this context, let me mention some of our major regional projects including the CASA-1000 electricity project, the TAPI pipeline, and a number of planned regional road and railway networks. The envisioned Lapis Lazuli Corridor which is planned to run through Afghanistan and Turkmenistan, across the Caspian Sea to Georgia, and then on to Turkey and Europe, marks another significant undertaking of our economic regional policy.

At the London Conference on Afghanistan, held on 4 December 2014, President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani explained the three dimensions of transition in Afghanistan: 1) the political transition, transferring authority rather than power from one elected leader to another; 2) the security transition, with the Afghan National Security Forces assuming responsibility for the country-wide security, with the assistance for our international partners; and 3) the economic transition, where we have to redouble our efforts in order to accomplish our minimum objectives.

The President also made reference to a number of inter-related cross-dimensional priorities, such as the empowerment of women and youth, as well as the promotion of accountability, good governance and the fight against corruption.

 The Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) demonstrated their capability to provide security for the Afghan people and to defend the country against external and internal threats. To this day, Afghanistan remains a victim of international terrorism. We call on our friends and partners to continuously support our security forces through training and advice, equipment and funding. The Resolute Support Mission (RSM) provides great opportunities for further enhancing the capabilities of the ANSF. The fight against international terrorism including DAESH requires an aligned global response.

The National Unity Government considers peace essential for the Afghan people and achieving peace clearly remains a priority. To this end, the Government seeks peace talks with all groups willing to accept the norms, values and principles as have been set forth in our constitution. At the same time, the Government will continuously respond to all security challenges and will oppose all terrorist groups in the country. No parallel political structures shall be accepted.

Our fight against the cultivation and trafficking of illicit narcotics also remains high on our agenda, as the global menace of drugs is intertwined with many other transnational scourges including terrorism, and other forms of organized crime. We are counting on our partners in the region and beyond to jointly tackle this problem in all its facets, from demand reduction and eliminating the flow of chemical precursors to border security. The principle of shared responsibility must be upheld.

The Afghan Embassy and Permanent Mission in Vienna remains grateful to its host country, as we are sharing excellent relations that have been established six decades ago.

Austria, our beautiful host country, has contributed to the international community’s stabilization efforts in Afghanistan and is taking part in the Resolute Support Mission.

As I mentioned earlier, Afghanistan also greatly appreciates Austria’s generosity in hosting refugees from our country. In this context, let me say that Afghanistan is committed to the voluntary, dignified and gradual return of all refugees, whilst taking into account absorption capacities in Afghanistan. We recognize that returning refugees can play an essential role in rebuilding the country. However, we consider the issue of refugees as a purely humanitarian matter and believe that political trade-offs should not affect this important human rights issue.

The Government of Afghanistan is looking forward to enhanced cooperation between Austria and Afghanistan and we are convinced that the ongoing Decade of Transformation will offer plenty of fresh opportunities for increased economic and political engagement between our two countries.

Dear colleagues

Today, I wish to thank all of you present here, representing the friends and partners of Afghanistan who contributed financially and, sadly, also by sacrificing the beautiful lives of their loved ones, to provide a better future for the Afghan people. The Afghan people will never forget your most generous help and in particular those who lost their lives, and we will hold your precious friendship in high esteem.

Please be reassured that the Government will play its role as an active member of the international community, as a young, committed democracy, contributing to the protection of our shared values of humanity, freedom, peace, human rights and international security.

I wish to take this opportunity to welcome the new Ambassadors here in Vienna and wish good luck to those who will leave soon.

Let me once again thank you all for joining us tonight, and without further ado, I now open the dinner buffet and I wish you all a wonderful evening.  Hopefully, you will enjoy the Afghan food.  Thanks for coming!