INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON AFGHANISTAN
31 MARCH - 1 APRIL 2004
H.E. Mr. Halldór Ásgrímsson
Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iceland
I would to thank the governments of Germany and Afghanistan for convening this international conference on Afghanistan at an important juncture in Afghan history. The wide participation in the conference reflects the continuing interest of the international community in the fate of Afghanistan. Bitter experience has shown that neglect of war-torn countries can have global repercussions.
We are here to discuss the transformation and reconstruction of Afghanistan, with the objective of assisting the long-suffering Afghan people in achieving the security, stability, democracy and prosperity to which they are entitled. Following the adoption of a new constitution and in view of planned elections, it is the responsibility of the international community in cooperation with the Afghan government to ensure that durable solutions are found. Iceland is prepared to make its contribution.
As has already been decided within NATO, an Icelandic contingent in ISAF will on 1 June will relieve German personnel and assume command at the Kabul International Airport. Although a part of the NATO operation, I would like to put this into a wider context. Afghanistan is a landlocked mountainous country with an underdeveloped road system and, therefore, heavily reliant on air transportation. Under such circumstances a well-functioning international airport is crucial for stabilization and reconstruction. In Kosovo, Iceland has been able to facilitate the transition from military to civilian command of the main airport and, hopefully, we can accomplish a similar goal in Afganistan. Such a transition at the Kabul International Airport would reflect a considerable degree of stability and, obviously, be for the longer-term benefit of the Afghan people.
At the NATO Summit in Prague, Iceland made a commitment to provide the Alliance with some heavy strategic airlift on a case-by-case basis. This has already been used in support of ISAF. In considering the provision of future flights, Iceland will make the stabilization and reconstruction of Afganistan a priority.
The political commitment demonstrated at this conference and the physical implementation in the field show that the international community will not abandon Afghanistan.