During his recent visit to Ukraine, Afghanistan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Rangin Dadfar SPANTA brought some good news: the president of Afghanistan will visit Ukraine this year.
What hopes is Afghanistan pinning on the meeting between the leaders of our two countries? What help does Kabul want from Ukraine? These and other questions are raised in The Day ’s exclusive interview with Afghanistan’s foreign minister.
“IN SPITE OF OUR GREAT ACHIEVEMENTS, WE HAVE PROBLEMS”
Mr. Minister, at one time the international community promised to help restore Afghanistan. Are these promises being fulfilled, and how has this affected the situation in your country?
“We have achieved some great successes in education, establishing freedom of speech, and democratization. We have a president who was elected during the general elections and a parliament. Over six million children attend school — this is the highest number in the entire history of Afghanistan. Women comprise 38 percent of all students. I would like to note the following fact. Six years ago it would have been impossible for this young lady (pointing at his press secretary — Ed. ) to hold this office. Now it is possible. We have constructed over 3,800 roads. Now we are building a high-speed railway. Afghanistan has 40 television stations and 48 radio stations, most of which are private. Over 300 newspapers and magazines are published. Basic medical services are accessible to 85 percent of the Afghani population; in 2001 only 9 percent of Afghanis had access to medical services. But despite these great achievements, we still have problems and difficulties: terrorism, smuggling, and a weak state and institutions. These are our challenges.”
Are these achievements determined mainly by the economy or foreign aid?
“Over 40 countries work in Afghanistan. The US, Great Britain, Germany, and a slew of other countries are helping to restore our country by building roads and creating stability.”
“NATO IS THE MAIN PLAYER IN OUR COUNTRY”
Are the resolutions of the Bucharest summit being fulfilled in your country? The summit approved additional NATO troops for Afghanistan. How is NATO helping your country in general?
“NATO is the main player in our country. In performing its mission, this organization is helping to secure stability in Afghanistan through both military and civil actions. We welcome France’s decision to send several hundred more troops to fight terrorism in Afghanistan. We are thankful to NATO, which is exerting efforts to secure stability and to build our country.”
How is the Muslim or Arab world helping your country?
“We have good relations with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Jordan. These countries are very active in rebuilding Afghanistan. They are taking part in civil projects. Turkey has dispatched 1,000 troops to take part in a military mission.”
“UKRAINE IS POLITICALLY VERY CLOSE TO US”
Let’s talk about the relations between Afghanistan and Ukraine. Do you think that Ukraine is a bit late in turning its attention to Afghanistan, as some Afghani diplomats said during last year’s visit of the then Minister of Foreign Affairs Arsenii Yatseniuk?
“No, that is not so. Ukraine is located far from Afghanistan geographically, but it is very close to us politically. We share many common values. We will have very close relations with Ukraine. This is part of our interests.
“As for bilateral visits, I remember two meetings of our presidents. I have also had three meetings with Ukrainian foreign policy leaders. One was with the now ex-foreign minister and two with current Minister of Foreign Affairs Volodymyr Ohryzko. We discussed questions of trade, investments, and cooperation in the spheres of education and culture. President Hamid Karzai will visit Ukraine in the very near future. We must consider more spheres for cooperation between our two countries: concrete cooperation in concrete spheres.”
What kind of aid or participation in what projects do you expect from Ukraine?
“I would like Ukraine’s participation in building our country to increase. Today three Ukrainian doctors are working in Afghanistan. I know that Ukraine will send 13 more experts whose task will be to guarantee security in Afghanistan and cooperation with the international community. Ukraine is opening a diplomatic mission in Kabul. All this proves that cooperation between our countries is expanding. Afghanistan will import Ukrainian wheat. Experts are coming to our country in order to strengthen bilateral cooperation.
“This will also touch on cooperation in the sphere of education. Today 83 Afghani students are studying in Ukraine. We want to send more of our students to Ukrainian universities. I am convinced that as a result of our joint efforts this number will be increased. We are also interested in cooperation on health, agriculture, and energy. We are counting on Ukraine to support us in all these spheres.”
AGREEMENTS AND INVESTMENTS
What about the development of military-technical cooperation between our countries?
“There are many ways to cooperate. We are also interested in cooperation in the sphere of defense. From our past experience we know that the military industry is well developed in your country. We are familiar with Ukrainian weapons and military equipment. Our defense minister is planning a visit to Ukraine to discuss concrete projects in this branch with his Ukrainian colleagues in Kyiv.”
When will your president visit Ukraine: before or after the summer vacation? What results does the Afghani side expect from this meeting?
“I hope that the visit will take place before the summer vacations. We are planning to sign an agreement on economic cooperation and trade, and another one on the exchange of secret information and military-technical cooperation. We also want to sign an agreement on the exchange of experts, cooperation in education, and the restoration of Afghanistan’s historical heritage. There are many possibilities for cooperation, enough to sign a whole number of agreements.”
Are there any obstacles preventing Ukrainian companies from penetrating the Afghani market?
“Our country has one of the most liberal investment laws in the world. Therefore, investment conditions in Afghanistan are among the best. Of course, we would like to attract Ukrainian companies to Afghanistan. Unfortunately, only one or two Ukrainian companies are operating on the Afghani market, and this is not enough.”