London, 31 January - 1 February 2006
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my honour to represent the Bulgarian Government at this important international conference. My word of appreciation goes for the hosts and organizers of this event: thank you for the magnificent job done and for the exemplary leadership provided.
I would like to emphasize the huge strides Afghanistan has made since the Bonn Agreement of December 2001. The adoption of the new constitution of Afghanistan in January 2004, the holding of the first ever direct presidential elections in Afghanistan in October 2004 and the Parliamentary and Provincial Council Elections in September 2005 led to the formation of legitimate state institutions. The establishment of Afghanistan's National Assembly marks the completion of the political transition process set out in the Bonn Agreement.
However, significant challenges remain in key areas such as security, strengthening human rights and civil society, fighting international terrorism as well as drug production and trafficking, building up effective and accountable government institutions, enhancing the reconstruction process. With the developments in Afghanistan having reached a crucial juncture, it is necessary to build on the success of the Bonn process to generate momentum for reforms and reconstruction of Afghanistan and to reconfirm the strong commitment of the international community for the next phase in Afghanistan's renewal.
The Republic of Bulgaria reconfirms its long-term engagement to work for a secure, stable, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan. We welcome the launch of the Afghanistan Compact on the basis of partnership between the Afghanistan Government and the international community, with a central and coordinating role of the United Nations. Bulgaria fully supports the three pillars of activity identified by the Compact - security; governance, rule of law and human rights; sustainable economic and social development, as well as the priority issue of counter-narcotics. We attach high importance to the strengthening of the leading role of the Government of Afghanistan in these areas on the principle of Afghan Ownership.
As an acceding country to the European Union, Bulgaria is committed to the principles and objectives of the EU-Afghanistan Joint Declaration of 16 November 2005 establishing a new partnership between the European Union and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. We will work closely with our partners to achieve its noble goals.
Security is the main prerequisite for achieving progress therefore the Republic of Bulgaria has been focusing its contribution mainly on this area.
Bulgaria is a strong proponent of NATO's active involvement in Afghanistan and the strategic objectives of the Alliance to continue to assist the establishment of a peaceful, stable and democratic Afghanistan.
The decisions taken at the December 2005 NATO Ministerial meeting will allow the adequate expansion of ISAF both geographically and functionally and will provide for a stronger NATO commitment in the Security Sector Reform, including with appropriate contribution to Afghan police training. The expected NATO's Afghanistan Cooperation Program will be yet another workable tool to achieve good progress in the reform of this sector.
My country will continue to participate within its potential in the UN-mandated and NATO-led International Security Assistance Force /ISAF/. In 2005 we doubled our personnel deployed in Afghanistan. This month our participation increased even further through the deployment of the Headquarters of the Multinational Brigade for South-eastern Europe under the command of a General from the Bulgarian Armed Forces. Preparations are underway for Bulgaria's taking over the role of leading nation in ensuring the functioning of Kabul International Airport in the period August-December 2006. With this mission our presence in Afghanistan in 2006 will further increase significantly. We also participate in a Provincial Reconstruction Team with medical staff in the Spanish hospital in Herat. Bulgaria donates materials, arms and communication equipment to the new Afghan National Army. The delivery of the third donation, amounting to eight mil. euro, continue.
We have provided humanitarian aid and pledged grant aid for Afghanistan power sector for the rehabilitation of the electricity network of Kabul.
Bulgaria has also been involved in the high priority area of counter-narcotics by providing planting material for rose cultivation and rose oil production as part of the "Alternative Crops" Initiative.
As OSCE Chairman-in-Office in 2004, Bulgaria exploited all possible avenues for the OSCE-Afghanistan relations in the OSCE Partner for Cooperation format and launched an Election Support Team for the Presidential elections in Afghanistan - the first such mission outside the OSCE area.
The message from Bulgaria is that my country remains strongly committed to the international efforts in support of the security, reconstruction and stabilization of Afghanistan, and that in their quest for peace, democracy and progress the people of Afghanistan are not alone and will not be left alone.
Thank you for your attention!