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23 December 2002

23 December 2002

Following is the text of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s message to the Conference on Good Neighbourly Relations delivered by Lakhdar Brahimi, Special Representative of the Secretary-General, in Kabul on 22 December:

The distinguished representatives of the five States that border Afghanistan have gathered today, in Kabul, around President Hamed Karzai and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah with optimism and the shared hope that their meeting will become another milestone in the long quest for peace in Afghanistan. High representatives of other countries and international organizations, including the United Nations, are attending your meeting as an expression of solidarity and support from the entire community of nations.

Afghanistan and its neighbours have become all too aware of the dangers and the damage of foreign occupation and wars, which lasted for over two decades now. In Afghanistan, as in some other conflicts around the world, war has been a blight that was not contained entirely within the borders of one country. Its effects swirled across borders, and, at times, the conflict was fed from outside. The people of Afghanistan have suffered untold misery, and the neighbouring countries also have had to deal with numerous negative effects, which spilled over into their countries from Afghanistan. As the very fabric of state and society was torn asunder in Afghanistan, the resulting flow of refugees, smuggling of weapons and narcotics, and export of terror have caused damage both in the region and elsewhere.

Peace in Afghanistan will not benefit this country alone. It will also benefit the whole region and beyond. Peace in Afghanistan can only be achieved with the multifaceted help of the neighbouring States and the wider international community.

Today’s meeting reflects upon hard-learned lessons, and demonstrates the determination of the entire region to defeat the after-effects of the war, to solidify peace and security in the region, and to reap the benefits it will offer for the nations whose representatives will sign today the Kabul Declaration on Good Neighbourly Relations.

Afghanistan’s neighbours have already done much to help bring back stability. They have been generous with economic assistance, and Afghan refugees have benefited from their hospitality for years. The Kabul Declaration should
therefore be seen as a concrete expression of a strengthening trend and I sincerely hope that the signatories will look back, years hence, and remember today’s signing not as an isolated event but as a new beginning, the basis for a further series of regional agreements and initiatives to promote cooperation in a multitude of areas of mutual concern and interest.

For millennia, Afghanistan has been the crossroads of civilizations, and its recovery will offer much to the entire region. Trade, cultural exchange, anti-narcotics efforts -- these are only a few of the areas of potential cooperation. The United Nations and the international community stand ready to be of assistance, and we are greatly encouraged today by this beginning.

Along with you, the signatories, we are determined to do all we can to bring to a close the recent era of conflict in this part of the world, to serve all the peoples of the region, and to serve the cause of international peace and security.

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