On Monday, 19 July, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon left Geneva to travel to Afghanistan, to co-chair the International Conference on Afghanistan with President Hamid Karzai, which would take place the following day. As the Secretary-General noted, the Tuesday meeting was the first international conference on Afghanistan to be held in the country, organized by the Afghan Government for the Afghan people.
On Tuesday, the Secretary-General delivered the opening statement for the International Conference, in which he appealed to the Afghan people to come together to achieve peace through reconciliation and build a future based on economic development and mutual cooperation, with full respect for their nation’s sovereignty. He urged the Afghan people to unite in the national interest.
The Secretary-General said that the conference marks the true beginning of a very fundamental transition. He said that, just as Afghans are taking greater responsibility for governance and development, so must they take greater responsibility for security as well. Improving security for Afghans is not just a matter of physical protection, he added. It also requires accountability for serious violations of human rights — those happening now and those that took place in the past. (See Press Release SG/SM/13020)
At the end of the day, the Secretary-General gave the Conference’s closing remarks, saying that never before have we had a more concrete vision of Afghanistan’s future. Now we must focus all our energies on making this vision a reality. (See Press Release SG/SM/13021)
On the margins of the meeting, the Secretary-General met with President Karzai, as well as many of the senior officials gathered for the Conference, to discuss international support for Afghanistan. In his bilateral meetings, he also discussed a range of regional concerns and other issues, including the situations in Iran, the Middle East and Kyrgyzstan.
Those bilateral meetings included those with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki; United Kingdom Foreign Secretary William Hague; North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen; German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle; European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton; Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith; and Kazakh Foreign Minister Kanat Saudabayev.
Before departing Kabul, the Secretary-General held a joint press conference with the Afghan President, in which he said, “With the steps taken today, Afghans have a better chance to gain a more secure foothold on that path. With them in the lead, and with the right support from the international community, I am convinced we can succeed.”
He departed Kabul on Tuesday evening, and travelled back to New York. While in transit, he visited Abu Dhabi, where he attended a dinner on Tuesday night, which was hosted by the Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan. He returned to New York the following day, on 21 July.