Statement by H.E. Mr. Masakazu Sekiguchi
Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan
At the Second Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan
New Delhi, 18 November 2006

Mr. President,
Mr. Prime Minister,
Distinguished Co-Chairs,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the outset, I would like to welcome the holding of the Second Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan, following the first meeting of the Conference held in Kabul in December 2005. I also highly appreciate the initiative taken by the Government of India and the willingness of the Government of Afghanistan to hold this conference.

Afghanistan has achieved significant progress in nation-building with the establishment of its governing system and the inauguration of the new government, while continuing to face serious problems, such as the deterioration of public security and a sharp increase in narcotics production. I believe that the conference is being held at an especially opportune time, as it enables participants from throughout the region to discuss how to overcome these challenges and at the same time encourages the international community including Japan to support Afghanistan in its positive efforts to achieve coexistence and cooperation in the region.

After this conference, I am going to make a visit to Afghanistan as a special envoy of the Prime Minister of Japan and meet with government officials there in order to deepen the discussion on measures to eliminate these problems.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The stability and the rebuilding of Afghanistan are key to ensuring the stability and development of the region as a whole, given that Afghanistan is situated at the crossroads of South Asia and Central Asia. With a strong determination to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a hotbed of terrorism and narcotics activities, Japan has assisted Afghanistan by hosting the International Conference on Reconstruction Assistance to Afghanistan in Tokyo in January 2002 and by providing the country with official development assistance amounting to approximately 1.1 billion US dollars so far in fields such as security sector reform, particularly for DDR and DIAG, comprehensive rural development and human resource development. In addition, Japan continues its activities of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force engaged in OEF-MIO in the Indian Ocean. As one result of the assistance provided to Afghanistan by the international community including Japan, we are encouraged to see further aid being offered in order to implement the Afghanistan Compact and achieve long-term development based on the ANDS.

The reconstruction of Afghanistan will be of benefit not only to Afghanistan but also to the region as a whole. On this occasion, I would like to stress Japan's view that it is very important that the entire region achieve development through regional cooperation between Afghanistan and its neighboring countries, and that Afghanistan and its neighbors, which are present at this meeting today, be the main actors in this regional development. Japan will spare no effort to support Afghanistan and its neighbors in the region if they show their own enthusiasm for regional cooperation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Based on such a broad-based perspective, Japan invited Afghanistan to attend the Second Foreign Ministers' Meeting of the "Central Asia plus Japan" Dialogue held in Tokyo for the first time. Dr. Spanta, Co-Chair of this conference and Foreign Minister of Afghanistan, attended that meeting in June this year.

Considering as well the content of the Kabul declaration issued in December last year and the Afghanistan Compact, Japan has been supporting regional cooperation through the following specific projects:

Japan is assisting in the construction projects for the Ring Road and the Kabul international airport terminal to assure the smooth movement of people and things in and out of Afghanistan. With respect to the Ring Road itself, and upon the completion of the Kabul-Kandahar road, Japan is making efforts to complete Japanese part of Kandahar-Herat road as earliest time as possible. Japan also intends to implement construction of Kabul international airport terminal during the next three years, and I myself is going to attend groundbreaking ceremony for this project during my visit to Afghanistan.

With the understanding that assurance of smooth movement from the Ring Road to Central Asia and South Asia is essential in order to restore the original role of Afghanistan as the crossroads of the region and to achieve development of the entire region, Japan is also supporting the construction of roads connecting Afghanistan and surrounding countries, such as the road connecting Mazari-Sharif to Uzbekistan, those leading from the inside Tajikistan to Afghan border and from Kandahar to the Pakistan border, the North-South Corridor from Mazari-Sharif to Bamiyan and the highway from Peshawar to Karachi in Pakistan. Japan will continue to contribute to the development of the network of roads and to the construction of airports throughout the region.

In parallel with smooth distribution, and as a part of counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics measures in Afghanistan, it is important to properly control the flow of people and things. Japan has extended approximately 11.5 million US dollars for counter-narcotics measures and provided assistance in human resource development in customs. Moreover, Japan intends to support actively for the enhancement of border management capability at the Afghanistan-Tajikistan border

Japan is also playing a major role as a focal point in the Agriculture and Rural Development Working Group under the ANDS and is providing assistance in fields such as agricultural infrastructure and human resource development, taking into consideration the establishment of the agricultural distribution system in and around Afghanistan in the future.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Government of Afghanistan, the surrounding countries and the international community must work in concert to solve the problems that Afghans face. In this undertaking, the true value of regional cooperation will become apparent. Let us ensure that this conference is a success and give the international community a good example of regional cooperation in action. Japan will spare no effort to provide the necessary assistance to facilitate your enthusiasm and efforts. In closing, I would like to thank you all for listening so attentively.

Thank you.

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