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Thank you very much and thank you Rosemary [DiCarlo, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs] for having us here in one of the capital cities of the UN system. I would like to thank, in particular, President [of Afghanistan, Ashraf] Ghani, and Chief Executive [of Afghanistan, Abdullah] Abdullah for all the work done for the good cooperation we have had over these last two years, but also before.
Two years ago we met in Brussels. Back then we renewed the national, regional and international consensus on Afghanistan; we expressed our support to all Afghan people; and we pledged collectively our political commitment, but also an unprecedented financial support amounting to €13.6 billion for the three years covering 2017 – 2020.
We have been glad to see pledges delivered and we have been glad and proud as the European Union to put our convening power at the service of Afghans back then as we are today. Because today we are in Geneva to renew these commitments, fully aware that Afghanistan finds itself at a critical moment in its history.
We all realise that hopes and aspirations of the Afghan people can be truly addressed only through a genuine peace process towards a democratic, inclusive and prosperous Afghanistan. I believe that almost no one in Afghanistan can now remember a time when the country was in peace, but something new is happening in Afghanistan and we welcome this.
President Ghani has put on the table a courageous peace offer to the Taliban. It is a unique opportunity to break the stalemate and move the country forward. I underline forward, not backwards, because this is an unconditional offer for peace talks, but it is not unconditional as a result of peace talks that can be started.
Afghanistan today is indeed more inclusive than it has ever been. It is not enough, but better than ever in its history, in particular, when it comes to rights and opportunities for women and girls and for minorities.
To move forward and not backwards on this path, we see that the people of Afghanistan ask for a peace that consolidates the progress made; they ask for a ceasefire - a permanent one this time; and they ask for a peace process that is owned by Afghans – all of them -, and that delivers on their aspirations.
So, we are here today to give all our support to the Kabul Process. We believe it is time for concrete talks about peace to begin. And by the time the talks begin, the parties should already be able to rely on full and well-coordinated international support.
We said it in Brussels two years ago; we said it in Tashkent earlier this year; and today, as the European Union, we are here to offer our concrete contribution, with all our instruments, to accompany a meaningful peace process and a peace deal.
On top of all our current support to all Afghan people, I want to put on the table today from our side five additional, very concrete things that the European Union is ready to do to accompany and support a peace process.
First, we can contribute to making the peace process an inclusive one – helping to involve representatives of women, minorities, the ulemas, the diaspora and civil society. Peace must belong to all the people of Afghanistan, not just to a minority of them. The European Union can offer support to make sure that this happens.
Second, we can assist with the reforms that may come with a peace deal, for instance with security sector reform.
Third, we can work with the people who decide to lay down their arms, and also with their families, so that they can find a new place in the Afghan society, start a business, learn a new job, and be part of a community, of a society, of their country.
Fourth, we can act as a guarantor of the peace process, as we have already done in many other countries – from Indonesia to Colombia.
And last but not least, we are ready to promote even more trade and infrastructure projects with Afghanistan's neighbours – all of them, none excluded - so to create new economic opportunities at all corners of the country, and that all Afghanistan's neighbours and all partners of the region can benefit from.
So, as soon as there will be a peace process, all of this will be on the table from our side. We are ready to do our part as a neutral player with no other agenda than the one that the Afghan people will choose to have for their own country. It is now up to them – the people of Afghanistan – to take the decision that could end decades of war and change the future of the country.
We believe that this is the moment to begin serious peace talks. All of us at this table have something to contribute. On the European Union's side, we are ready: as a facilitator; as a reliable provider of incentives; as a partner of all countries in the region; as a force for peace and cooperation; and, most importantly, as a reliable friend of the Afghan people.