STATEMENT BY MR. ERSHAD AHMADI, DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER AT THE INAUGURATION OF THE EMBASSY OF THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF AFGHANISTAN IN THE KINGDOM OF SWEDEN
STOCKHOLM, 1 APRIL 2014
His Excellency Frank Belfrag, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs
Her Excellency Tanja Rasmusson, State Secretary for International Development Cooperation
Ambassador Niclas Trouve, Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan
Ambassador Hameed Haami,
Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen
Good evening and welcome to the Embassy of Afghanistan in Stockholm.
I am very pleased to be here on my first ever visit to the beautiful city of Stockholm on the occasion of the inauguration of our embassy in Sweden, a country that is a dear friend and steadfast partner to the people of Afghanistan. While we are opening our embassy here in 2014, in fact the people of Sweden and Afghanistan have enjoyed friendly relations for more than 75 years with the signing of our Friendship Treaty in 1940. Thanks to the work of the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan (SCA) since 1982, Sweden is a household name in Afghanistan and the people of Afghanistan are eternally grateful for their decades of support, including through some of our most difficult days in the 1980s.
Most recently, our bilateral relations were formalized and renewed in 2002 with the establishment of the Swedish Embassy in Kabul. Over the last 12 years, Sweden has been integral in promoting our common values of democracy, human rights and education in Afghanistan. Sweden’s contribution to the International Security Assistance Force and continued aid to a number of important areas of development has brought invaluable benefits to the people of Afghanistan and has helped the country transform from a political and economic backwater to a vibrant and rapidly evolving democratic polity. This is evidenced by the revival of state institutions, the emergence of an engaged and forward looking younger generation, increasing number of educated and working Afghan women, a booming private sector, and a robust independent media.
The opening of our embassy here is a crucial step in elevating Swedish-Afghan relations to a new level and an important sign of our growing bilateral engagement and long-term partnership as Afghanistan transitions into the transformation decade and reestablishes itself as a self-reliant, sovereign, and active contributor in the global community.
While we have so many achievements to celebrate and be proud of in the last 12 years, Afghanistan also continues to face challenges, particularly as we approach our highly anticipated elections in a few days. As evidenced by recent terrorist attacks – 3 attacks in Kabul alone in the last week – extremist elements in our region and their supporters continue their efforts to undermine our democratic process and prevent Afghanistan from moving toward a peaceful and prosperous future. Contrary to what these terrorists desire, which is to frighten Afghans and stop them from participating in the elections, these events have garnered an incredible level of resilience among the people of Afghanistan. Men and women, young and old alike are more determined than ever to participating in the elections and playing their part in ensuring that the hard earned gains of the past 12 years are not compromised.
Peace remains the most important desire of the Afghan people and the government is doing everything in its power to come to a political resolution with the Taliban. It is important to note however that any peace and reconciliation process must be in accordance with Afghanistan’s constitutional framework. Unlike 12 years ago when Afghanistan was at an all time rock bottom with nothing to lose, the Afghan people today fully recognize the progress we have made with the help and support of our international partners and they are more determined than ever to ensure these gains are preserved during the impending political transition or any peace negotiations.
The people of Afghanistan also recognize that our desire for peace, security, and economic prosperity depends on solid partnerships with our regional partners and our American and European allies. In this context, especially now that we have an Embassy in Sweden, we are looking forward to completing the final negotiations and concluding our bilateral development cooperation agreement in the very near future. We that believe the opening of our Embassy will further enhance people to people relations between Afghanistan and Sweden, strengthen trade and investment cooperation, and help introduce Afghanistan’s rich culture and heritage to the people of Sweden.
The Afghan are proud to have and are very appreciative of Sweden’s support and partnership in our quest towards self reliance and economic prosperity. Sweden has been a committed and truly exemplary partner to us and with the inauguration of our embassy here in Stockholm we have surpassed yet another milestone in our bilateral relationship which we look forward to deepening further in the future.
So, Ladies and Gentlemen, today’s inauguration means much more than just the opening of the Afghan Embassy in Sweden. It is the story of a nation re-emerging, it is the story of Afghan resilience and determination to seek peace and democracy, and it is the celebration of solidarity and a strong genuine partnership between the people of Afghanistan and Sweden.
Thank you all for attending this historic event – have a wonderful evening.