Excellency, Doctor Muhammad Ashraf Ghani, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan,
Distinguished Conference participants,
At the outset, I would like to cordially welcome you to the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process 9th Ministerial Conference entitled ‘Strenghtening Concensus for Peace and Development’.
I also would like to offer my congratulations on the occasion of the ancient Navruz Holiday and wish all participants of this gathering continued health, happiness and success.
Tajikistan and Afghanistan are linked with many civilization commonalities and strong neighborliness ties. We have a common language and culture with the noble people of this brotherly country, and our common historical roots date back to several millenia.
Therefore, it goes without saying that we are not indifferent towards the destiny of our Afghan brothers. Any pain and suffering experienced by the people of Afghanistan resonates in the hearts of the Tajik people.
In this regard, I personally have called on the international community in all international fora related to Afghanistan to help solve the Afghan issue, because the crisis in this country is an international problem.
This country has been suffering from unrest and armed conflict for more than 40 years.
The noble people of Afghanistan have suffered a lot from the imposed war and fights, which originally emerged as a result of interference of outsiders in their interior affairs and has been still ongoing.
Unfortunately, the process of jeorpadizing security in this country is gaining new colors, which is a matter of concern not only for our country, but the entire region.
many international and regional fora have lately been held at various levels to address the issue of Afghanistan.
The international partners and the Government of Afghanistan have been able to do a great deal of work during the summits and conferences in strengthening the capacity of the country’s security forces and restore full peace and stability.
At the same time, certain steps have been taken towards expansion of regional cooperation and achievement of peace and stability in the country.
However, there is still a need for greater coordination and involvement of the international community in the implementation of specific projects and programs in Afghanistan.
In this regard, the activities of the "Heart of Asia - Istanbul Process" from its establishment in 2011 to the present day, undoubtedly has an important role.
Tajikistan fully supports the implementation of a comprehensive international strategy to ensure stability and restore peace in Afghanistan.
We are confident that today's summit in Dushanbe will take new steps with new tasks in discussing and addressing this country’s issues.
We also hope that the international community, with its new initiatives and proposals, will further improve the mechanism of cooperation and assistance to this country.
Tajikistan and Afghanistan have always been and will remain good neighbors. We have shared each other's joys and sorrows throughout history. Tajikistan, during the entire period, when this country has been in a complicated situation, has always been with this country.
We have always sincerely supported the establishment of complete and lasting public peace and unity in this friendly and brotherly country with whome we share a common language and culture.
We believe that the security and stability of Central Asia depends, first of all, on the establishment of peace and stability in Afghanistan and the creation of favorable conditions for its peaceful development. Therefore, cooperation with Afghanistan is on the list of priorities of our country's foreign policy.
I think that even the smallest assistance to this suffering country, the smallest step towards its improvement will help it to take another step forward in its development and to overcome its existing challenges.
To this end, Tajikistan has established and promoted mutually beneficial cooperation with neighboring Afghanistan in the framework of bilateral and multilateral mechanisms. We are determined to further take effective actions in this direction and enrich the content of our cooperation with Afghanistan.
Accordingly, we constantly strive to comprehensively promote the socio-economic development of this friendly country through cooperation in the development and implementation of various cross-border and regional infrastructure, energy, transit and transport projects.
The countries of our region are connected not only by common borders, but also by ancient trade traditions that date back to the time of the Great Silk Road. Traditions and trade systems that have been formed throughout history through this important subregional highway are of great importance in the current times.
Afghanistan is located in the heart of this highway connecting different parts of the world, especially Central Asia, South Asia, China, the Middle East and Europe. In this regard, it is important to mention that Tajikistan considers the creation of a comprehensive regional transport and transit network as one of the important areas of joint cooperation.
Tajikistan is making efforts to lay the regulatory framework for the development and transit trade through transport corridors with the participation of our friendly country - Afghanistan.
Therefore, we are interested in the extensive use of the Afghanistan-Tajikistan-China and Afghanistan-Tajikistan-Kyrgyzstan routes, and we are working to implement the Tajik-Afghan railway project, including the rumi-panji poyon-sherkhon bandar section at the earliest possible. We propose to make it a part of the railway between Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Iran and connect it to the North-South international transport corridor.
The energy sector is the key for all sectors of the economy and the societal development. Its comprehensive and effective use can raise our countries to the level of major regional generators of "green energy" and strengthen our capacity in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.
The global trend towards a “green economy” and the efforts of the international community to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which is recognized to be one of the factors of climate change, are peculiarities of the current time.
Tajikistan has abundant hydropower resources, which are an important source of renewable energy. We strive to increase the generation of environment-friendly hydropower for the benefit of all countries in the region and expand the opportunities for its delivery to the regional energy market.
Tajikistan annually supplies between 1 to 1.5bn k/h of electricity to Afghanistan. Over the past ten years, Tajikistan has supplied more than 10bn k/h of electricity to this neighboring country.
For these purposes, we have constructed and put into operation two power transmission lines - one 110 and 220 kV with a capacity of 500MW from Tajikistan to Pul-e-Khumri in Afghanistan.
There is an enormous potential for energy cooperation, and we stand ready for comprehensive cooperation in this strategic area. At the same time, we are eager to increase electricity supplies to Afghanistan.
In this regard, the issue of development and implementation of projects for the interconnection of power grids in the region is of particular importance. The implementation of the CASA-1000 project, which provides for the transmission of electricity from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to Pakistan through the territory of Afghanistan, is very important.
The construction of Rogun-Puli Khumri 500KV high-voltage transmission line, the feasibility study of which is being launched, is also an important and timely step.
The construction of various hydropower plants in the border areas, including the implementation of the Sebzor hydropower project in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region of Tajikistan, can be of great importance for improving the living standards of our friendly and neighboring people.
At the same time, Tajikistan supports Afghanistan's plans to implement regional projects in the energy sector, including the construction of high-voltage transmission lines and other transnational energy facilities.
The Republic of Tajikistan has great potential in the construction of hydropower plants, hydraulic facilities, modern and efficient irrigation systems, horticulture, and railways. We stand ready to have a mutually beneficial cooperation with Afghanistan in the development and implementation of joint programs in these areas.
As a friendly neighbor of Afghanistan, Tajikistan seeks to further enhance trade and economic cooperation between the two countries, including in the border areas.
In this process, the growth of trade turnover between the two countries is of particular importance. The Tajik-Afghan bilateral trade during 1997-2020 amounted to US $1,549bn and it reached US $70.7m in 2020.
We will try to double the volume of bilateral trade in the near future, despite the negative impact of external factors, including the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Currently, there are 4 cross-border trade points on the Tajik-Afghan border, including the border markets of Tem in Khorugh town, Ishkoshim in Ishkoshim district, Ruzvai in Darvoz district, and Khumroghi in Vanj district.
Four free economic zones have been established and put into operation in the Tajik districts bordering with Afghanistan
There are currently six bridges between Tajikistan and Afghanistan, and construction of the seventh bridge has begun in the Kokul area. These bridges play an important role in the expansion and enhancement of bilateral trade relations.
We stand ready to upgrade our cooperation in the fields of science, education, culture, arts, information and social activities to a new level.
Currently more than 500 Afghan students study at Tajik universities. During the entire period of independence of our country, more than thousand Afghan citizens have graduated from various universities in Tajikistan and earned their degree.
Several contributing factors, including the common language of our people, enable us to continue this process effectively.
Tajikistan can train specialists for brotherly Afghanistan in the fields of electricity, healthcare, irrigation, agriculture, railways, road construction, construction, architecture, various technologies and hundreds of scientists.
Since 2009, 974 Afghan citizens, including 90 women, have studied at the OSCE Border Management Staff College in Dushanbe. Between 2017-2020, the Adult Training Center of the Agency for Labor and Employment covered 781 Afghan citizens with vocational training. Some 19 Afghan women rescuers received vocational training in 2019 at the National Training Center of the Committee of Emergency and Civil Defense of the Government of the Republic of Tajikistan. In 2015, 28 Afghan railway interns studied at the Dushanbe Railway Vocational School for three months, and another 100 are expected to attend.
Tajikistan and Afghanistan attach great importance to strengthening cooperation in the field of security within their bilateral relations and in the framework of international and regional organizations. It is to be mentioned that our cooperation in this area is characterized by a high level of coordination, mutual understanding and mutual trust. The current sensitive situation urges us to further expand the scope of practical cooperation between our countries in this area.
The difficult situation that has evolved in Afghanistan in recent years is not limited to this country and does not stem from it alone. The situation in Afghanistan is of trans-regional nature affecting the international community.
We, the countries of the region, must not allow the friendly and brotherly people of Afghanistan to be left alone with the issues imposed on it.
We currently witness intensification of various terrorist and extremist groups, as well as transnational organized crime, including drug trafficking.
Terrorist, extremist and radicalist groups avail the complicated situation in Afghanistan to carry out their destructive ambitions and expand their destructive activities.
The bitter experience of ongoing war in this country over the past 40 years proves that there is no military solution to the Afghan case. At the same time, we see the key to addressing the current issues of Afghanistan in the wider use of diplomatic and political means and the adoption of effective measures to ensure this country’s socio-economic development. In this regard, Tajikistan welcomes the position of the Government of Afghanistan to establish inter-Afghan talks to ensure security and peace and stability in the country.
We believe that the interests of all the people of the country should be taken into account in the inter-Afghan negotiations, and its fate and future should be determined primarily by the people of Afghanistan.
At the same time, the international community, first and foremost, the donor countries, would not count their support for the suffering Afghanistan in the current sensitive situation.
All participants of this high-level conference know what happened with Tajikistan after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The blessings of independence have cost us dearly. The process of national reconciliation in our country has lasted for five years.
I am not going to talk here about the moral and financial damage caused to my dear nation.
I would just like to emphasize that in those difficult days, the leaders of the Afghan people, along with other friendly countries, supported the Tajik peace process and provided us with impartial and fraternal assistance. We shall never forget that.
We have gained a wealth of experience on the path towards reconciliation, peace and further development, and we stand ready to share it with the brotherly Afghan nation anytime.
The end of all wars is reconciliation.
I call on all countries participating in this Conference, donor countries and regional and international organizations: Let us help the glorious people of Afghanistan to make it easier and shorter for them to strengthen mutual understanding, peace and development.
I hope that the outcomes of today's meeting will further strengthen international cooperation in the framework of the Conference "Heart of Asia - Istanbul Process" for the restoration of peace and stability in Afghanistan.