JAAP DE HOOP SCHEFFER (Secretary General of NATO): Let me start by saying how pleased and privileged I am that President Karzai and the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon have been able to attend this high-level meeting on Afghanistan.
I think the symbolism could not be more clear. The United Nations and NATO, standing side by side with the Afghan people, represented here by their President Karzai. That is how we are building the success, together, that Afghanistan has seen these past years. That is also how we reinforce that success, as we look to the future of our long-term commitment.
President Karzai and Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon will speak just after me, so let me speak for NATO and for ISAF. And I’ll do that briefly.
At the meeting that just concluded, the ISAF nations endorsed two documents; a vision statement, which you either have already in your hands, or will be distributed to you very shortly; and an internal, political military plan.
Both documents, I think, make four points very clearly.
One, as I said, that it is a long-term commitment.
Two, the great importance of growing Afghan leadership.
Three, the need for greater coordination and cooperation amongst all the actors on the ground... something with which, I know, President Karzai and Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon very much agree.
And, my fourth point, our support for a regional approach, principally with regard to Pakistan.
These are important principles, ladies and gentlemen. The political military plan sets out a concrete way forward, with measures of progress in all areas for which ISAF is responsible. In essence we have here, in Bucharest, charted out the future of this operation with one clear goal: to move towards the transition phase when the Afghan government and people can take the lead in providing for their own security.
President Karzai’s announcement that he intends... his intent is for Afghan forces to take over responsibility of security in Kabul, is proof to any doubters that this will increasingly become the reality.
I could add that brave Afghan forces, as we speak, are on the front line in many areas of Afghanistan. But let me be clear: NATO’s presence will be necessary, tomorrow and for the long term. When it comes to force generation, we have made tremendous progress.
Since Riga, ISAF has grown by 14,000 troops. Today, more nations stepped forward with offers that will raise that total again, and very substantially; and which will also meet Canada’s requirements to extend their mission in Kandahar... something I very much welcome.
Let there be no doubt, Ladies and Gentlemen, after today’s meeting, of NATO’s long-term commitment to Afghanistan. Let there also be no doubt of our support... our full support for the United Nations, and our willingness to work with the United Nations in Afghanistan, but also beyond.
It’s my pleasure, President Karzai, to ask you to say a few words.
HAMID KARZAI (President of Afghanistan): Thank you very much.
Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary General of NATO, my friend Mr. Scheffer. Thank you very much Mr. Secretary General of the United Nations, His Excellency Ban Ki-Moon.
It’s a tremendous point of encouragement for Afghanistan... and honour, and pleasure, to have been invited to today’s extremely important meeting of NATO member States that are within NATO, and other nations helping Afghanistan for stability; the war against terror; and reconstruction.
Mr. Secretary General, I thank you for having me in today’s meeting and I have found the meeting to be encouraging to Afghanistan, with strong commitment of all the member States of NATO and other nations present there.
I will take this good message to the Afghan people.
I’m also very particularly thankful for the strategic vision that you’ve offered on behalf of ISAF. Afghanistan has been helped by the international community; by NATO. Afghanistan, as you earlier mentioned, is now better placed to take responsibility for its own security. As I have announced, Afghanistan will be ready by August to take responsibility for security in Kabul.
Afghanistan will be a firm partner in the war against terror. Afghanistan will be firmly committed to the commitments that it has made for reform, for improved governance, for justice, for human rights, for democracy. And Afghanistan will continue to seek international assistance for the reconstruction of the country.
His Excellency Ban Ki-Moon, the Secretary General of the UN, thank you very much for having attended the meeting today with us in the forum of NATO. This shows United Nations’ strong commitment to stability and peace in Afghanistan. This shows, Sir, your own personal commitment to stability and peace in Afghanistan, and the well-being of the Afghan people and the continuation of the war against terrorism, which is a threat to humanity at large.
I would be short and I will thank both of you, Gentlemen, for giving Afghanistan the platform from which to begin a journey towards a more prosperous, stable and secure future.
Thank you very much.
UNIDENTIFIED: The Secretary General.
BAN KI-MOON (Secretary General of the UN): Secretary General Scheffer, President Karzai, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am very pleased to be here with you today.
As you know, our purpose in Bucharest is to reaffirm the determination of the international community to help the people and government of Afghanistan to build an enduring, stable and prosperous democratic state, fully respecting our human rights and free from terrorism.
In that regard, I’d like to commend the leadership of President Karzai to overcome these very difficult challenges. You should be... rest assured, as has been demonstrated by this international conference on Afghanistan, the whole international community, including the United Nations, are behind you. At the same time, I would like to congratulate for this, a successful convening of international conference on Afghanistan under the leadership of Secretary General Scheffer, to mobilize political will and necessary resources and support for the people and government of Afghanistan.
Again, I assure you that United Nations and you, and President Karzai will closely coordinate through my special representative, Mr. Kai Eide.
In addition to our group consultation, I have had the productive one-on-one meetings with President Karzai, NATO Secretary General Mr. Scheffer. I also met number of leaders attending this conference... of course, including our host the President of Romania.
We sought two outcomes: one, to agree on a comprehensive strategy for ISAF as well as on NATO troop commitments. To re-dynamize the partnership between the Afghan government and the international community.
In that regard, with this troop commitment, I emphasized, when I met the leaders, that the cost of disengagement would be far greater than the cost of engagement. It is absolutely necessary that the international community continue to engage, so that... and until the Afghan government will be able to stand on their own.
It was very encouraging, Mr. President, that you stated that the security of Kabul will be responsible, under the leadership of yourself and Afghan National Army.
This effort began with my appointment of a new and energetic Special Representative, Mr. Kai Eide. Under enhanced Security Council mandate, we are now working towards the upcoming Donors Conference in Paris in June, where we expect to expand our assistance to the Afghan people in rebuilding their country and its institutions. The United Nations needs to be at the centre of this effort, which is why I am attending this conference.
There has been much discussion, in recent weeks, about how to deal with the continuing violence in the south. We all agreed that resolving the situation in the south will require more than a military response. We also agreed that the national... Afghan National Army needs to be increasingly in the lead. It is willing and increasingly able to do so.
Today’s gathering shows how seriously we all take our commitment to Afghanistan, and I thank you very much.
JAMES APPATHURAI (NATO Spokesman): Questions? I think the first one’s (INAUDIBLE)...
Q: (INAUDIBLE) TV China.
My first question is for Mr. President and Mr. Ban. As you know, China is a very big country in Asia, and what kind of role China can play for your country... for Afghanistan?
Ma deuxième question est pour M. le Secrétaire général de l'OTAN. Comme vous voyez, vous avez deux invités asiatiques ce soir. Et je voudrais bien savoir quelle sera la politique de coordination de l'OTAN avec les pays asiatiques et avec la Chine surtout. Merci. Vous pouvez répondre en anglais. Merci.
KARZAI: Sir, China is a very close neighbour of Afghanistan and also a long time friend of Afghanistan.
China, for the past six years, has been contributing to Afghanistan in reconstruction and in training of our people. China is one of the biggest partners in trade with Afghanistan.
China was given, just a few months ago, one of the biggest contracts Afghanistan has ever given abroad, for the copper fields of Afghanistan.
China is a country that is involved in providing security for Afghanistan and concerned about terrorism and the spread of it in the region. We cherish this relationship with China; it has a very significant role to play for the stability of Afghanistan and the region.
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Je peux vous dire d'abord que ce n'est pas l'ambition de l'OTAN, quoi que vous voyez le Président, le Secrétaire-Général des Nations-Unies et moi ici devant vous, ce n'est pas l'ambition de l'OTAN de coordonner les autres. Mais faire la coordination avec les autres. La coordination c'est d'abord bien sûr une responsabilité du gouvernement afghan et si l'on parle de la communauté international, ce sont les Nation-Unies, l'ambassadeur Kai Eide qui a été nommé par le Secrétaire-général Ban-Ki-Moon. Alors, ce n'est pas la raison, la motivation pour cette réunion n'était pas que l'OTAN va coordoner. L'OTAN a une responsabilité limitée dans le domaine de sécurité et stabilité. Vous savez comme moi que la réponse finale à l'Afghanistan, Monsieur le Président, ne sera pas une réponse militaire. C'est une réponse civile. Il s'agit de la reconstruction et du développement.
Sur la Chine, je peux vous dire qu'on a des bonnes relations entre l'OTAN et la Chine. On a eu des visites des deux secrétaires-généraux adjoints en Chine. Et je crois que ces relations sont en train de se développer dans le bon sens.
APPATHURAI: Next question will be there. This line, right here.
Q: (SPEAKS IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE) (NOISE)
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Is that me?
APPATHURAI: The interpreter could translate.
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Oh sorry.
Q: (SPEAKS IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
APPATHURAI: Can the interpreter please translate? Thank you. Wait, wait is there translation?
KARZAI: I’ll answer him in English, and that will be the translation, as well.
KARZAI: Well, the document issued in the name of ISAF’s strategic vision for Afghanistan is one that encompasses all aspects of security; reconstruction; improved governance; rule of law; engagement of neighbours; cooperation with neighbours.
These are areas that, definitely, if addressed fully, will bring about the kind of security and safety that Afghan people are seeking, to the satisfaction of the Afghan people.
The Afghan people are, indeed, very grateful for all that has been delivered to them by the international community; by NATO; by other contributing member States. And today’s meeting was, yet again, another affirmation of that will and backing of the international community to the Afghan people.
And, in this context, it is the responsibility now... also, of the Afghan people... of their government to fulfil, in full, the commitments that we have made to ourselves and also to our partners in the international community.
APPATHURAI: Next question.
Q: Alexander (INAUDIBLE) of Nova-Gazeta, Russia. Question to President Karzai and to Secretary General of NATO.
The question about transit of non-military goods across Russia. Why it is important? How do you...? Is it important for Afghanistan? It is important for NATO? And why? What advantages does it give, in comparison with present situation?
KARZAI: It is important, and if there is an agreement, already, on the transit of NATO supplies to Afghanistan through the Russian territory, we are thankful for that to Russia.
It is important because it cuts distances short; because it makes transportation easier; because it provides alternative routes to Afghanistan for the transportation of goods by NATO member countries.
So that agreement is something that we support and we very much agree and we hope that it will be done effectively and smoothly.
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: I can echo President Karzai’s words. We hope that tomorrow’s meeting of the NATO-Russia Council in the presence of President Putin will have, as one of the results, this land transportation agreement of non-lethal goods for ISAF in Afghanistan.
And as President Karzai was saying, all my military advisors tell me that the more lines of communication you have, the better. And it is also... but tomorrow I’ll be back to you, for the NATO-Russia Council; it is also, I think, in the NATO-Russia relationship, an important element that we can work together on what is NATO’s key military operation and key priority in Afghanistan.
APPATHURAI: Next question is over there. Yes?
Q: It’s a question for the Secretary General and for President Karzai.
About the American troops moving south, to work with the Canadians in Kandahar. Have you gotten any numbers from the United States in terms of how many troops this will involve; how long they’re going to stay?
And I’d like to ask you as well, what impact do you think they’re going to have, working with the Canadians? That’s a question I’d like to ask you, as well, Mr. President. What impact do you think the American troops, working with the Canadians will have, in Kandahar?
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: You’re my guest, all right? Mr. President.
KARZAI: The Canadian contribution to Afghanistan, in particular to the province of Kandahar, has been really tremendous, with the sacrifice of men and women in service, and civilians, from Canada. With hundreds of millions of Canadian assistance to Afghanistan, Canada has been at the forefront of help to the Afghan people.
Canada needed a partner there and we are glad that the United States is going to be a partner with Canada in Southern Afghanistan. This will definitely enhance Canadian capabilities in that part of the country and, also, Afghan capabilities in that part of the country.
So it’s a joining of hands, to become stronger and more effective, and that’s why we welcome it.
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Let me answer you along the lines that... as you know... the important announcement by President Sarkozy this morning on a very substantial extra contribution by the French, for Afghanistan. And those French forces will go East, as you know. First of all, it frees up... if that is correct English, American forces presently serving in the eastern part of Afghanistan for the south. And President Bush reacted and announced and Prime Minister Harper, of course, was happy with that, that that makes it possible for American forces to fulfil the political condition which the debate in Canada resulted in, of assisting the already substantial Canadian force in Kandahar.
As far as I know, there are no time limits involved, in the sense that the Canadian... as you know, the Canadian participation in ISAF will end at a certain stage; but I have not heard about time limits in this regard. But Prime Minister Harper confirmed... and must have confirmed publicly, as well, that, as far as he is concerned this substantial offer and the shift of American forces will fulfil the Canadian conditions.
APPATHURAI: Two questions here. No, the first here, and then there. Wait.
The first here. Then...
Q: Stenistof (INAUDIBLE) BCTV Russia.
Mr. President, will you take part in tomorrow’s negotiations with the Russian President, Vladimir Putin? And will NATO include Russia in negotiations about Afghanistan?
And the second question, will you take part in election... in presidential elections, in Afghanistan... in next elections?
KARZAI: I didn’t get part of the question. You meant, will I be in the meeting tomorrow?
Q: Yeah; yeah.
KARZAI: No; I will not be in that meeting tomorrow. I will be in Hungary tomorrow; and, for the elections in Afghanistan, I have a job to complete and to fulfil what I have promised to the Afghan people.
So let’s hope all goes well for elections and for me.
Q: And about Russia... in negotiations about Afghanistan, will Russia take part in that negotiation?
Will Russia take part in resolving Afghan problem?
KARZAI: As far as bilateral relations between Russia and Afghanistan are concerned, we have a productive relationship. As a matter of fact, I was in a meeting the day before yesterday... before flying towards Bucharest with the Russian ambassador and, to my pleasant surprise, I learnt from him that trade between Russia and Afghanistan has increased from $30 million, say, in 2002-3 or 4, to nearly $380 million today.
That’s very good news; we’d like to add to that; we’d like to expand this relationship; it’s in our region. And we welcome extensive relations.
APPATHURAI: The last question is there.
Q: Mr. Secretary General, today something unbelievable happened in the EAPC meeting. So... you got two presidents, one of Turkmen president and second is Islam Karimov, who didn’t participate in EAPC meetings since 2002, after Andijan massacre. So... I just wanted to have your reaction on that. And also, how do you deal with the fact that... of human rights violations, in Uzbekistan? So... you still having cooperation and negotiation on that? So...
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Well, my answer’s fairly simple. We have re-established contacts in the framework of the EAPC and President Karimov was welcome, and spoke at the EAPC luncheon. And that was with the full agreement by the Allies.
And I think we had a very interesting EAPC luncheon, because there’s a number of partners who have very interesting things to say... be they from Central Asia; from the Caucasus; the non-NATO member partners from the European Union; the new EAPC partner, Malta, which re-established its membership of the EAPC.
So we had an interesting and good luncheon, in the framework of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council.
APPATHURAI: That’s all we have time for.... Except, could I ask the three of you, maybe, to stand together for the photographers for one...
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Stand together.
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Stand together.
UNIDENTIFIED: Good enough. Yeah, thank you very much.
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: All right? Sure.
UNIDENTIFIED: Thank you.