|China vows to continue support to Afghanistan's reconstruction|
ISTANBUL, Jan. 26 (Xinhua) -- Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, who attends a regional summit on Afghanistan here as the special representative of Chinese President Hu Jintao, pledged that China, as a neighbor that shares friendship dated back to antiquity, will continue to support Afghanistan's reconstruction.
"China has actively supported, promoted and participated in Afghanistan's post-war peace and reconstruction effort. Look ahead, China will continue to give support to Afghanistan within its capacity," Yang said in his remarks at the Istanbul Summit on Friendship and Cooperation in the Heart of Asia.
Yang noted that since 2002, China has cancelled all mature debts owed by the Afghan government and provided a total of more than 900 million yuan (about 132 million U.S. dollars) grant assistance.
He said China has launched a large number of assistance programs in Afghanistan to help improve people's lives, including a series of big projects such as the Jomhuri Hospital (Republican Hospital) and the Parwan irrigation project, which have made a positive impact in the country's reconstruction process.
China has also trained more than 500 Afghan government officials in a broad range of areas, including diplomacy, economy and trade, medical and health care, finance, tourism, agriculture and counternarcotics, according to Yang.
China announced last year it will turn all its previously committed 75-million-U.S. dollar concessional loans into grant assistance, to be provided to Afghanistan over a five-year period.
Yang said the first tranche of funds was already delivered in 2009, and the remaining 60 million U.S. dollars will be made available in the coming four years.
"In addition, we will keep on assisting Afghanistan in such areas as vocational training and human resources development," Yang added.
Hosted by Turkey, the Istanbul summit was also attended by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, Turkish President Abdullah Gul, Iranian First Vice President Mohammad-Reza Rahimi and Tajikistan Foreign Minister Hamrohon Zarifi.
Yang said China highly appreciates Turkey's efforts in addressing the issue of Afghanistan and supports the tripartite cooperation among Turkey, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
He praised the progress Afghanistan has made in its reconstruction.
"Over the past eight years, we have seen how the Afghan people have risen to challenge and worked unyieldingly to rebuild their country. Afghanistan has gradually recovered from the traumas of war and scored commendable achievements in institution building, economic development and external relations," Yang said.
He hailed that the successful presidential election held by the Afghan people in 2009 was of special significance, as it marked an important step forward towards the goal of "Afghanistan run by the Afghans."
However, Yang pointed out that Afghanistan still faces many daunting challenges, as the security situation remains volatile, the process of economic reconstruction is slow and people's livelihood needs urgent improvement.
"Afghanistan is at a critical juncture," said Yang, calling on countries in the region and the international community to step up efforts to support Afghanistan. He made a four-point proposal in this regard.
He said the countries in the region, having special associations with Afghanistan due to geographical, religious, ethnic and linguistic reasons, should bring into full play our advantages and get actively involved in Afghanistan's reconstruction process.
The countries should accord top priority to Afghanistan's capacity building and human resources development and, under the principles of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit, engage in result-oriented cooperation with Afghanistan in such key areas as transport and trade facilitation, energy, communications, drug control and education, he said.
He advised to increase communication to ensure that relevant mechanisms and initiatives are viable, practical and efficient and can play a positive role in bringing about an early solution to the Afghan issue.
Yang also stressed the need to always remember to fully respect the independence of Afghanistan and the imperativeness to respect the leading role of the United Nations in coordinating international efforts.
"We sincerely hope that with the hard work of the Afghan government and people and the strong support of the international community, a peaceful, stable and independent Afghanistan that enjoys development and good-neighborliness will emerge in the world," Yang said.
Tuesday's summit issued a statement in which Afghanistan's neighboring countries said they back the war-torn country's plan to reconcile with moderate Taliban forces as Karzai is seeking international support for the program.
"(We) support, therefore, the Afghan national process of reconciliation and reintegration in accordance with the Constitution of Afghanistan in a way that is Afghan-led and - driven," said the statement.