Solana reiterates EU's "long-haul" commitment to Afghanistan

Other News Materials 21 April 2008 16:43 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - The European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, arrived in Kabul on Monday for a day-long visit and reiterated the organization's long-term commitment to the war-shattered country.

"I can tell you in behalf of the European Union - all the countries of the European Union - that we will continue to be working with the government, working with the people of Afghanistan for the long haul," Solana said after meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and other senior ministry officials in the fortified presidential palace in Kabul.

He praise the progress that Afghanistan has made in the past several years since the fall of the Taliban, saying "tremendous efforts have been done in education. The tremendous effort ... done in health is something that we take into a great consideration."

"We the people in Europe will continue to be helping the people of Afghanistan to get what they deserve, the stability, prosperity and peace," he said.

Solana also said that he discussed a number of other issues including security, governance, and rule of law in Afghanistan, as well as the international preparation for the Afghan donors' conference in Paris in June.

Speaking at the same press conference, Karzai thanked the European Commission and said that it was the second biggest donor for Afghanistan in helping security, governance and reconstruction.

Following his arrival, Solana paid a visit to headquarters of the EU Police Mission in Afghanistan (EUPOL) and met with police officials.

Since June of last year, some 230 EUPOL officials have been training the upper echelons of the Afghan security forces. EUPOL is also assisting other Western training missions and is now spreading its operations to cover the whole country.

After a working lunch with Karzai, Solana was expected to meet General Dan McNeill, commander for NATO's International Security Assistance Force, Kai Eide, the UN's Special Representative for Afghanistan, and the speaker of the Afghan parliament, before ending his trip.

Solana was also scheduled to visit neighboring Pakistan on Tuesday and was due to meet President Pervez Musharraf, as well as the country's prime minister and party leaders.

Brussels sent an election monitoring team of about 140 to Pakistan, and officials say the EU's diplomatic efforts helped convince Musharraf of the need to end the country's state of emergency and stage what have been judged as reasonably fair and democratic parliamentary elections in February.

While in Islamabad, Solana was expected to reiterate the EU's support for the democratic process in Pakistan.

"We have to continue to show our support and engagement, in particular after the (recent) political developments (in Pakistan)," an official from Solana's office said ahead of the trip.

The trip, which had been kept under wraps for security reasons, is Solana's third to Afghanistan and his fourth to Pakistan in his capacity as top EU foreign policy representative.