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Minister addresses Afghanistan aid conference

7 April 2005

Defence Minister addresses Afghanistan aid conference

New Zealand's commitment to providing relief, reconstruction and longer-term development assistance to Afghanistan was reaffirmed by Minister of Defence Mark Burton at an international aid conference in Afghanistan this week.

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Mr Burton made this commitment at the Afghanistan Development Forum on Monday attended by representatives of nations providing relief assistance to Afghanistan.

Following the conference address, Mark Burton held a series of top level meetings including with President Karzai, Vice President Masood, Foreign Minister Dr Abdullah, and Deputy Defence Minister Dr Nouristani. He also called on UN Secretary General Special Representative Jean Arnault, the Commander Combined Forces - Afghanistan Lieutenant General Barno, NATO Senior Representative in Afghanistan Hikmet Cetin and Major General Kamiya.

Mark Burton told the conference that New Zealand's approach was based on integrating security and humanitarian interventions and above all on being responsive to needs expressed by Afghan local authorities and people, he said.

"New Zealand's aid and development agency, NZAID, has allocated NZ$5 million for ongoing reconstruction assistance for the 2004/05 year (in addition to a NZ$2million reallocation). This is on top of NZ$8 million which has been allocated since 2001."

This funding was channelled through the New Zealand Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) based in Bamian, United Nations agencies and non-government organisations.

The extension of the deployment of New Zealand's PRT in Bamian for a further year, until September 2006 would enable the New Zealand Defence Force to build on the very good progress that was being made there, he said.

"The PRT represents a sizeable commitment for New Zealand, costing over NZ$80 million for the three-year deployment.

"It is our hope that such measures will incrementally contribute to the building of the secure environment necessary to ensure that Afghans themselves are able to take hold of their future.

"We are all conscious of the need to achieve tangible improvements in the quality of life of Afghan people. A long-term commitment by the international community, in conjunction with the vision and leadership of the Afghan people, will see further progress in the key areas securing Afghanistan's future."

In addition to attending the conference and bi-lateral meetings Mark Burton visited New Zealand Defence Force personnel deployed in Afghanistan, including overnighting at New Zealand's PRT base in Bamian.

ENDS

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