FM to Afghanistan in first high-level visit since 1979

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul-Gheit boarded a plane to Afghanistan Monday to participate in an international conference in Kabul aimed at shoring up support for reconstruction and peacemaking efforts in the war-torn country.

The event, scheduled to begin Tuesday, will be chaired by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon and Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Nearly 60 foreign ministers are expected to attend the conference, in addition to numerous representatives from NGOs and international aid agencies.

According to Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki, “the goal of the conference, the largest such event ever hosted by Afghanistan, is to ensure that President Karazai’s government receives international support.”

He added that the conference will see the launch of “Operation Kabul,” a program designed to encourage the gradual transition of responsibility for governing Afghanistan–including security operations–to the Afghan government.

Zaki went on to say that Egypt’s participation in the event reflected the pride Egypt took in its strong and historic relationship with Afghanistan. He said that Cairo hoped to support the Karzai government as the latter worked towards achieving national reconciliation, stability and development in Afghanistan. According to the ministry spokesman, Egypt understands that stability in Afghanistan represents a precursor for stability and security throughout the wider Middle East.

According to Hussein Haridi, former Assistant Foreign Minister for Asian Affairs, Aboul-Gheit’s trip marks the first visit to Kabul by an Egyptian foreign minister or high-ranking government official since 1979, when Afghanistan was under the control of the Soviet Union.

Although Haridi noted that Egypt had participated in earlier conferences aimed at supporting the Afghan people, he criticized Aboul-Gheit’s current trip to Kabul.

“I think that the foreign minister’s visit to Kabul is inappropriate at the current juncture, especially considering that a strategic review is currently being undertaken in Afghanistan,” he stated.

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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