Clinton: Peace council effort must go on

Sept. 23, 2011 at 6:13 AM
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NEW YORK, Sept. 23 (UPI) -- The international community must support Afghans in their search for peace and stability, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.

Addressing the New Silk Road ministerial meeting in New York, the secretary condemned the assassination of former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who had headed the country's High Peace Council, which is trying to negotiate with the Taliban, and urged that his work be continued, the State Department Web site said.

Besides Clinton, the meeting was led jointly by Guido Westerwelle and Zalmai Rassoul, foreign ministers of Germany and Afghanistan. The meeting was designed to formulate a vision for sustainable economic growth in Afghanistan and prosperity in the region with the drawdown of the international coalition of military forces that have been fighting the Taliban for nearly a decade.

Clinton said she was confident the Afghans will not be deterred from seeking stability and prosperity.

"And the international community must continue to stand with them and support their efforts -- including the work of the High Peace Council," she said.

On the need for an economic strategy, she said Afghanistan's political future is linked to its economy.

"Afghanistan needs a sustainable economy at home that is not dependent on international assistance, and that will require leadership from the government and investment from the private sector," she said.

"Let's set our sights on a new Silk Road -- a web of economic and transit connections that will bind together a region too long torn apart by conflict and division."

The New Silk Road concept builds on the historic role of Afghanistan as a key point on Asian and Middle East trade routes, Westerwelle said.

"It envisages a web of transportation, trade and energy links connecting Central and South Asia, enabling the flow of goods and exchanges of people."

Rassoul said his government is "working to lay the foundation for a fully sovereign, self-reliant and effective Afghan state" as Afghans try to regain their historic role as a bridge connecting South and Central Asia with the Middle East.

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