Brüssel, 26. January 2007 Press release

Plassnik: "Convincing transatlantic teamwork in the Balkans"

26.01.2007

Plassnik at meeting of foreign ministers on Afghanistan and Kosovo

Brussels, 26 January 2007 - "The international community is determined to support Afghanistan on its path towards a stable, secure, and democratic state. This has been impressively demonstrated at today’s meeting," said Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik in Brussels at the meeting of foreign ministers of countries participating in the International Security Assistance Force for Afghanistan. Among the NATO-states’ foreign ministers representatives of Finland, Sweden, Ireland, Australia, Japan, and Switzerland also took part in the meeting. Furthermore, Afghanistan’s government, the UN, and the World Bank, who are strongly committed to international aid for Afghanistan, were also represented.

"In recent years we have made important progress in Afghanistan. We agreed that we want to consistently continue this course. The people in Afghanistan want long-term peace and security throughout their country and support the efforts of their democratically elected government and the international community. The future of the country must not be left to a small minority of extremists," continued Plassnik.

The Foreign Minister underlined the EU’s and Austria’s active commitment in areas such as reconstruction, the rule of law, health, and combating drugs, among others. Austria, for instance, had played a leading role in the development of an EU-financed programme aimed at improving control of Afghanistan’s borders. Austria also supported a project designed to strengthen border control between Iran and Afghanistan within the scope of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). "Another important concern of mine is to strengthen the role of women in the reconstruction process. Women in particular have a decisive role to play, not only during reconstruction but also in combating crime and drug trafficking. Austria is therefore cooperating closely with the UN to support women in Afghan society through concrete projects," stated the Foreign Minister.

The meeting was followed by a dinner for the foreign ministers of the EU and NATO states which was used for an intensive exchange of opinions on the current situation in Kosovo and in the Middle East. "In the past the EU and NATO have actively cooperated within the framework of international crisis management. Close cooperation based on equality and an open and intensive transatlantic dialogue are vital components in the efforts for a long-term solution to problems in international crisis regions," emphasised the Foreign Minister.

The Foreign Minister paid tribute to the progress achieved so far in stabilising the Balkan region, citing it as an excellent example of the convincing results that can be achieved through close transatlantic cooperation. "Particularly at the current stage of the ongoing Kosovo status process it will be of decisive importance to consistently continue this international teamwork. It is of great importance to the region’s future stability that the United States remains committed to Kosovo," stated the Foreign Minister. "In the discussion with our NATO colleagues I also emphasised the importance of supporting Martti Ahtisaari in finding a solution which not only takes into account the wishes of the majority of Kosovo’s population but also the rights and expectations of the other ethnic groups," concluded Plassnik.

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