by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the opening of the Afghan peace negotiations in Doha
Today is a historic day for Afghanistan.
And thank you to the Qatari hosts.
I am honoured to join you all.
To represent NATO Allies.
And our partners from around the world.
In February, I attended the ceremony in Kabul.
It marked an important milestone on the way to peace for Afghanistan.
But it was only the beginning.
With the start of intra-Afghan negotiations, we are entering a new phase of the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.
Afghans want peace.
And so does the international community, which has supported Afghanistan on this long, hard road.
Much has been sacrificed along the way.
By Afghans, and our own troops.
These sacrifices were not made in vain. Afghanistan is no longer a safe-haven for international terrorists.
We must also recall how much has been gained in the last two decades.
With the help of NATO and the rest of the international community,
Afghanistan now has higher life expectancy and lower child mortality.
More children in school, including girls.
A higher representation of women in all areas of public life,
A vibrant media scene.
And professional, capable and multi-ethnic Afghan security forces.
All this would have been unthinkable twenty years ago.
The talks you are starting today must preserve these gains.
To reflect the hopes and wishes of all Afghan men and women.
And NATO stands ready to support these talks so that you succeed.
Many challenges remain.
But peace is now within grasp.
The Afghan government and representatives of the Taliban have demonstrated the will to engage with each other.
Even on difficult and sensitive issues.
We trust that this shows a willingness on both sides to finally settle a conflict that has caused so much pain and suffering for all.
NATO has stood with the Afghan people for the last 19 years.
We are now adjusting our troop presence in Afghanistan to support the peace efforts. At the same time, we remain committed to training and funding the Afghan Security Forces to help safeguard the Afghan people.
Ladies and gentlemen,
After decades of conflict, these talks are the best chance for peace.
We have to embrace them whole-heartedly.
And keep in mind the ultimate goal.
To end the violence.
To enable every Afghan man and woman to lead a dignified life.
And to ensure that Afghanistan is never again a safe-haven for international terrorists.
A peaceful and stable Afghanistan is in everybody’s interest.