KABUL: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg spoke via video link at the opening ceremony of intra-Afghan negotiations held in Doha on Saturday, under the chairmanship of the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “With the start of intra-Afghan negotiations, we are entering a new phase of the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process,” the NATO Secretary General said. “Afghans want peace and so does the international community, which has supported Afghanistan on this long, hard road,” he added.
The Secretary General highlighted the long-standing efforts carried out by NATO Allies and partners in Afghanistan, in the past nineteen years, as well as the achievements made in the country – with the help of NATO and the rest of the international community – and NATO’s commitment to Afghanistan’s long-term security.
“Much has been sacrificed along the way, by Afghans, and our own troops,” he said. “These sacrifices were not made in vain; Afghanistan is no longer a safe-haven for international terrorists; it has 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; the talks starting today must preserve these gains to reflect the hopes and wishes of all Afghan men and women; 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,” Mr. Stoltenberg pointed out.
NATO and its partners welcome efforts to get to this point and urge all Afghans to now seize this opportunity for peace. In a statement, they stressed that they expect the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and Taliban negotiating teams to engage constructively as they seek to achieve a comprehensive peace agreement that puts an end to violence, and builds on the progress of the last 19 years to safeguard the human rights of all Afghans, particularly women, children, and minorities, uphold the rule of law, and ensure that Afghanistan never again serves as a safe haven for terrorists. They also reaffirmed their longstanding commitment to Afghanistan, the Afghan people, and the Afghan security forces.