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Foreign Secretary William HagueVideo, Global
Foreign Secretary William Hague speaks about his visit to Afghanistan and Pakistan along with the UAE Foreign Minister, H.H. Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
William Hague (Foreign Secretary): Hello. Well last week I visited Afghanistan and Pakistan and I did so with my colleague the Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed. This was the first visit to Afghanistan by a European Foreign Minister alongside an Arab Foreign Minister which underlines the point that it’s not just NATO that is taking military action in Afghanistan to protect our national security there are forty eight nations in total. It’s not the West against the Muslim world, there are Arab nations and many others involved in what we do in Afghanistan.
So Sheikh Abdullah and I went there together first of all to Southern Afghanistan to Helmand Province where so many British troops do an outstanding job in very, very difficult and dangerous circumstances alongside, in this case, troops from the Emirates as well.
We visited Governor Mangal, a very highly regarded governor of Helmand. He has presided over the Police Force getting much stronger, over improvements in education, reduction in both the poppy crop, the drugs trade that has partly fed the insurgency. So he is doing a very good job. We saw him.
We also visited the new command and control centre of the Afghan Forces who will be responsible for the security from next month in the provincial capital Lashkar Gah, taking over from the ISAF NATO forces. And they’re doing a good job; they’ve dealt with every major security incident bar one since last August so we discussed with them the prospects for transition there which is the model for what will happen in the rest of Afghanistan by 2014.
We met the members of our Provincial Reconstruction Team, some outstanding diplomats, soldiers, aid workers who work there building a better future for Southern Afghanistan. And at the end of the day on a rather sad occasion I took part in the ceremony of a US Marine who had been killed that day whose body was being evacuated from Afghanistan, a reminder of the sacrifices that are made and the losses that we have sustained protecting our and our allies’ national security in Afghanistan.
The next day after meeting more of our troops I went up to Kabul and I met President Karzai to talk about the prospects of political reconciliation in Afghanistan, held talks with the Foreign Minister Doctor Rassoul. Also at the dinner hosted by him I met the Finance Minster Mr Zakhilwal talking about how corruption can be fought in Afghanistan and, encouragingly, met Chevening Scholars. These are young Afghans who have been to university in Britain under our Foreign Office Chevening Scholarship Scheme and they are going back to Afghanistan full of friendship with the United Kingdom but also with real optimism and skill about the future. It is encouraging to meet the young people there.
From there we went on to Pakistan to the capital Islamabad, I met my new counterpart the Acting Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, for talks about the whole range of the British Pakistan relationship. Also had dinner with Prime Minister Gilani and also visited a memorial to the thousands of Pakistani Police Officers who have been killed in terrorist incidents, a reminder of the great sacrifices that they make.
The relationship between Britain and Pakistan is one of our most important foreign policy relationships. It is based on an enduring strategic relationship and a myriad of close connections between individuals and businesses and families in Britain and Pakistan and it’s one we will continue to put a lot of work in to in the future alongside the tremendous support we give for education in Pakistan, now helping an additional four million children go to school.
So this was an important two days in our work and I think has strengthened our relations with both these countries that are vital to our own security.
01 July 2011