21 November 2011
H.E. Mr. Gholam Hossein Dehghani
International Political Affairs
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Islamic Republic of Iran
under the agenda item 38 entitled
“The Situation in Afghanistan”
General Assembly of the United Nations
21 November 2011, New York
In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
I would like to start by expressing our gratitude to Mr. Staffan de Mistura, Special Representative of the Secretary General and the Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission whose service in Afghanistan will come to its conclusion by the end of this year. His dedication to strengthening peace and stability in Afghanistan is praiseworthy.
We are very glad for the progress achieved by our brotherly neighbor Afghanistan in all areas, including achievements on Afghan-led political and security issues. However, still there are clouds on the horizon, the first and foremost are the whispers of long term presence of foreign forces in Afghanistan. While we welcome the withdrawal of US and other coalition forces, we are of the strong belief that this should not lead to long term presence and the establishment of permanent military bases in Afghanistan. Foreign forces entered Afghanistan in the name of countering terrorism and establishing peace and security. Ten years have passed since then. According to many official reports there has been an increase in the degree of insecurity compared to the situation of last year. This is a clear indication that the presence of foreign troops do not necessarily contribute to solving the problem of security in Afghanistan, rather it may exacerbate the degree of violence and further add to the disenchantment of the people. Therefore, the longer presence of foreign military forces in whatever form and under whatever justifications, would not only bring peace and stability in Afghanistan, rather it would provide a breeding ground for the terrorists and extremist groups to further continue their operations.
The other issue is the continuation and increase in the cultivation of narcotic drugs, which is still the most serious challenges not only for Afghanistan, but those en route of drug trafficking and the countries of destination. This menace has hindered the advancement of the country towards development and has put at risk the social cohesion of Afghanistan along with its neighbors. Moreover, narcotic drugs, as the financial source of terrorism in Afghanistan, has worked as another breeding ground for terrorists, extremists and illegal groups who attempt to destabilize the Afghan Government. According to the 2011 Afghan Opium Survey released on 11 October this year by the Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), opium poppy-crop cultivation in Afghanistan reached 131,000 hectares in 2011, 7 per cent higher than in 2010, due to insecurity and high prices. This Survey sends a strong message that international community should not afford to be lethargic in the face of this problem. A strong commitment is needed from both Afghan and international partners to curb this menace. For decades, Iran has been at the forefront of a full scale war against narcotic drugs smuggling. Thousands of Iranian law enforcement personnel have lost their lives or injured and billions of dollars have been spent to combat drug traffickers. We have shouldered a great burden on this fight and strongly call again on international community to take urgently firm and measurable steps in this regard.
Yet one another issue is the long-standing problem of Afghan refugees. We have hosted on average 3 million Afghan nationals over the past three decades. At present, more than 1 million Afghan refugees are registered in Iran, while a greater number of unregistered Afghans are also living in our country. For all these years, Afghan nationals have continued to enjoy Iran’s educational and welfare facilities among others and to benefit from the same subsidies that our own people receive. We urge again the international community, to continue to strengthen and expedite its efforts in creating the conditions conducive for the sustainable repatriation of refugees and their full rehabilitation and reintegration in their homeland.
On regional cooperation we have continued our talks with Afghan authorities on bilateral, trilateral and regional basis to further strengthen our cooperation, particularly in relation to increasing our coordination on security matters, counter-narcotics efforts, illegal immigration and completion of developmental projects including building roads and railways and we have been able to score a good record. For example, on the railroad, we will soon witness the completion of railway network in the region which will connect the land locked Central Asian countries and Afghanistan to the Bandar-Abbas port city in the Persian Gulf through rail. By integrating Afghanistan to railway system in Central Asia, Afghan economic integration in the region would be eased up to a great degree.
In the trilateral summit meeting held in Tehran in June this year, the presidents of Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan agreed to join forces in combating militancy and all sides stressed their commitment to efforts aimed at eliminating extremism, militancy, terrorism, as well as rejecting foreign interference, which is in blatant opposition to the spirit of Islam, the peaceful cultural traditions of the region and its peoples’ interests. Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier-General Ahmad Vahidi also visited Afghanistan on the same month. A number of projects have already been finished and some new agreements were reached and we look forward to more agreements on bilateral, trilateral and multilateral basis.
Earlier this month we had Istanbul meeting and we are expecting the Bonn meeting early next month. The Istanbul conference was an opportunity where the neighboring countries as well as international partners exchanged views on how to move further on creating a stable and prosperous Afghan lead process. We hope that the upcoming meeting in Bonn would be another occasion to discuss in a sincere manner ways to develop measures aimed at addressing common challenges on political and security issues and elaborate further ways to eliminate extremism, militancy, terrorism and paving the ground for a more economic prosperity for Afghanistan with the active participation of all the neighboring and regional countries in the infrastructural and developmental projects in line with the wishes of Afghan people. Any initiative coming out of Bonn conference, including the New Silk Road initiative, in order to be successful, should strengthen the trust between Afghanistan and its neighbors through active engagement, interactions and partnership. The neighboring countries of Afghanistan share critical interests in Afghanistan’s security and long-term stability and play their role in promoting Afghanistan’s socio-economic development. Obviously the prospects of a stable and flourishing Afghanistan would be ideal situation to its neighbors and the wider region. The continuing engagement between Afghanistan and its neighbors and regional partners in the areas of trade, economic development and infrastructure development must be therefore supported. Here we should also emphasis on the central role of the United Nations in coordinating international efforts in Afghanistan which is of paramount importance and enjoys our full support.
Let me conclude by expressing our hope for a better and more prosperous future for Afghanistan. Like in past, we extend our full support to the people and Government of Afghanistan in achieving security, stability and comprehensive and sustainable development for the country.
I thank you Mr. President, for your kind attention.