China pledges financial, training assistance to Afghanistan

Beijing, Oct 31 (IANS) China pledged to provide non-reimbursable assistance of 500 million yuan (about $81.43 million) to Afghanistan this year at an international meeting on Afghanistan held in Beijing Friday.

China will provide to Afghanistan non-reimbursable assistance of 1.5 billion yuan (about $244 million) over the upcoming three years, to help the country train 3,000 people in all fields over the next five years and provide 500 scholarships, said Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang while addressing the opening ceremony of the fourth ministerial conference of the Istanbul Process on Afghanistan.

“Firm support for Afghanistan’s peaceful reconstruction should be concrete action instead of verbal commitment,” Xinhua quoted the premier as saying.

He pledged to strengthen bilateral cooperation in areas such as infrastructure construction, agriculture, water conservation and mineral resources exploitation.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the Chinese side will implement assistance and training plans, and try to open training courses on anti-terrorism, drug control and disaster management.

China will have a broader and deeper participation in cooperation under the framework of the Istanbul Process, and promote Afghanistan-related regional cooperation, Wang said.

Inaugurated in 2011, the Istanbul Process is the only Afghanistan-related cooperation mechanism led by regional countries.

To promote result-oriented cooperation through practical means, the Istanbul Process has identified a number of confidence building measures (CBM) in areas, including anti-terrorism, drug control, disaster management, trade and investment opportunity, regional infrastructure construction and education, to be jointly implemented by interested participating and supporting countries and organisations.

According to Wang, 15 cooperation programmes in those areas have been conducted over past year, which have seen good results.

Sixty-four more priority programmes were identified in Friday’s ministerial conference, which will help Afghanistan develop its national governance, self-development, public security and defence, Wang said.

He called on all parties involved to implement these programmes, provide financial or technological assistance and strengthen cooperation.

Wang also stressed that realising political reconciliation as soon as possible and strengthening Afghanistan’s capability building were of vital importance to its transition process.

He hoped all political parties in Afghanistan would work towards the realisation of inclusive political reconciliation through dialogue and negotiation. He called on the Istanbul Process to play an important and constructive role in helping Afghanistan .

Premier Li also presented a five-point proposal for the solution of the Afghan issue, including insisting self-governance of the Afghan people, promoting political reconciliation among different Afghan political parties, speeding up economic reconstruction, exploring a development path for the country, and strengthening external support.

Li urged the international community to fulfill assistance commitments and help Afghanistan achieve sustained economic development.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, who is paying his first China visit since taking office in September, agreed with Li’s proposals while addressing the opening ceremony.

He said the Istanbul Process would lay the foundations for an early solution to the Afghan issue as well as the region’s peace and stability. He also hailed the important contribution China made to expedite the process.

Today’s conference is the first time China has hosted an Afghanistan-related international meeting. This was also the first meeting since the new Afghan government assumed office.

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