On the basis of the Agreement on Long-term Bilateral Partnership and Cooperation between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Italian Republic, signed on 26 January 2012, hereinafter “the Partnership Agreement,” the first meeting of the bilateral Joint Commission was held in Kabul on 19 April 2016, in order to continue to work towards a long term partnership, underpinned by common goals, mutual understanding, fruitful political dialogue, and shared interests.
The Delegations of the two Governments were led respectively by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs. The talks were held in a friendly and constructive atmosphere and reaffirmed the results-oriented bilateral relations between Afghanistan and Italy.
With regards to political and security cooperation, on the eve of the 95th anniversary of the establishment of the bilateral diplomatic relations (3rd June 1921), the Afghan Side expressed their deep gratitude for the fundamental support and assistance provided by Italy to Afghanistan over the past 15 years, in order to achieve peace, stability and prosperity for the Country and its people. The Afghan Side further recognized the key role played by Italy, particularly, in the Province of Herat and the Western region through its collaboration provided within the ISAF mission and currently the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission.
The two Sides recalled the positive outcome of the first official visit to Italy by H.E. President Ashraf Ghani on 1December 2015. They also noted the constructive second session of the political consultations between the two Ministries of Foreign Affairs held in Rome on 9September 2015, on the basis of the bilateral Memorandum of Understanding on Political Cooperation, signed in 2011.
Both Parties shared the view that regional cooperation plays a key role in the stabilization and sustainable development of Afghanistan, while paving the way for a results-oriented peace dialogue. In this regard, they reaffirmed their support to the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG), which aims at facilitating an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process with the purpose of bringing an end to violence and terrorist attacks that daily kill and maim innocent civilians, while undermining regional security and stability. In this context, the two Sides also reaffirmed their full support to the “Heart of Asia” Istanbul Process, as well as to the consistent implementation of its confidence building measures (CBMs). They also took note of the importance of the Regional Economic Cooperation Conference for Afghanistan (RECCA) and the implementation of its projects to help develop Afghanistan.
As envisaged by the Partnership Agreement, the two Sides welcomed the realization of a training course, held on May 2015, which had been promoted by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and the Chamber of Deputies of the Italian Parliament, to enhance the capacity of the Afghan Parliament by improving the effectiveness and efficiency of parliamentary functions. They also recalled the positive outcome of the training program for the Afghan customs officers and the Border Police, organized by the Italian “Guardia di Finanza,” as well as other capacity building initiatives in support of the humanitarian and human rights sector over the past few years.
In the area of development cooperation, both Sides reaffirmed their commitment to the implementation of the post-2015 sustainable development goals, on the basis of mutuality and accountability in line with the principles of the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework (TMAF) and reiterated by the Self-Reliance through Mutual Accountability Framework (SMAF).
Italy noted that Afghanistan is currently ranked the first among Italy’s development aid recipient countries. Since 2001, the Italian development cooperation has allocated around 820 million Euros, including grants for about 700 million Euros and soft loans for 120 million Euros, of which over 550 million Euros have already been disbursed.
The two Sides reaffirmed that the Italian commitment to development cooperation will focus on the sectors highlighted in the Partnership Agreement, including: economic and rural development; governance and rule of law; infrastructure and natural resources; and public health and humanitarian assistance. Special attention will be given to gender policies and the empowerment of women in the Afghan society, as a cross-cutting sector of cooperation.
With regards to transport infrastructure, the Afghan Side welcomed Italy’s readiness to contribute, through a soft loan, to the implementation of the Mashad-Herat railway line, aimed at connecting Afghanistan with a regional network, under terms to be defined according to the resources still available in the 150 million Euros loan package commitment provided for by the Partnership Agreement, with additional funds, up to a total of 65 million Euros.
The two Sides welcomed the signing of the Intergovernmental Agreement for the funding of the reconstruction of the Herat–Chesht-e-Sharif road, aimed at facilitating transport and improving significantly trade connectivity for wider economic growth in Afghanistan. The agreement stipulates that Italy will support this project with a financial contribution, through a soft loan of over 92 million Euros. The Afghan Side expressed its commitment to giving high priority to the implementation phase of the project, in view of its development potential for the Harirud Valley.
The two sides also welcomed the extension of the two Intergovernmental Financial Agreements for the National Rural Access Program (NRAP). This ensures that Italy will continue to fund various major projects in infrastructure sector, including the second phase of the heart bypass road (worth more than 28 million Euros in grants).
The two Sides recognizing that the fight against corruption represents a priority within the Afghan Government programmes, will consider possible capacity building and training initiatives, with the collaboration of qualified Italian bodies in favor of the relevant Afghan authorities.
Both Parties underlined the importance of counter-narcotics and law enforcement cooperation and welcomed the entry into force, on March 2015, of the Cooperation Agreement on preventing and combating illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and their precursors, signed in Rome in 2011, which provides the framework for long-term bilateral cooperation in this field.
The two Sides expressed satisfaction with the level of cooperation achieved through the United Nations Organization on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) to counter narcotics, in particular, through participation in UNODC’s regional programme for Afghanistan and neighboring countries. Within this framework and in the context of the Italian participation in the Counter Narcotic CBM of the “Heart of Asia” Istanbul Process, Italy is financing new training activities on legal issues for counter-narcotics and border police officers of Afghanistan, which will start in Tehran next week.
The two Sides welcomed readiness by the Italian National “Antimafia” and Counterterrorism Department to evaluate potential initiatives for collaboration, including training workshops on organized crime and terrorism.
In the area of economic cooperation, the two Sides expressed satisfaction with the bilateral collaboration developed in the marble sector, which led to the creation in 2014 of the Italian-Afghan Marble Center in Herat. Both Sides took positive note of the interest of companies and entrepreneurs of the two Countries in future partnerships in this sector. Meantime, they agreed to explore business opportunities and bilateral collaboration in other sectors.
In the area of cultural cooperation, the two Sides welcomed the signing of the bilateral cooperation agreement in the fields of culture, science and technology. They also emphasized the importance of strengthening technical cooperation in protection and preservation of cultural heritage, especially with respect to countering illicit trade and smuggling of historical artifacts.
Both Parties agreed that the second meeting of the Joint Commission on Bilateral Partnership and Cooperation between Afghanistan and Italy should be held on a date to be agreed through the diplomatic channels.
Kabul, 19 April 2016
For the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
|For the Government of the Italian Republic
Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation
H.E. Paolo Gentiloni