World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search

 

PM Howard meets President Karzai of Afghanistan

Transcript Of The Prime Minister the Hon John Howard MP
Joint Press Conference With the President Of Afghanistan, He Hamid Karzai ,
Kabul, Afghanistan

E&OE……………………………………………………………………………………

PRESIDENT KARZAI:

I’m very happy today to receive His Excellency the Prime Minister of Australia in Afghanistan. We would have very much liked to host His Excellency for a longer time but since His Excellency is travelling to other countries he will not be able to spend much more time in Kabul. The Prime Minister visited central Afghanistan where we have a considerable number of troops from Australia, helping with security, helping with the fight against terrorism in our country, helping with stability in Afghanistan. From the beginning of the Bonn Agreement four years ago til today Australia has been among the strongest supporters of peace and reconstruction in Afghanistan. It has been with us all along for which the people of Afghanistan are extremely grateful to the people of Australia and to the Prime Minister who’s been with us firmly and strongly like today as we heard from the Prime Minister, Australia will continue to be supporting Afghanistan in its efforts for rebuilding, for institution building and for more stability. I would like to thank the Prime Minister for the contribution of the Australian people to Afghanistan in all aspects of life. And most welcome Mr Prime Minister to Afghanistan.

PRIME MINISTER HOWARD:

Thank you very much Mr President. This is the first occasion I’ve been able to visit your country and I’m very grateful for that opportunity. I have, of course as you know, been to visit Australian forces in central Afghanistan. They are people who are working with the forces of many other countries, along with your own forces, in the fight against terrorism. I do want to congratulate you for the leadership that you have shown in bringing about openness and democracy to this country. It is a long struggle and it’s a difficult struggle. But it’s a struggle that involves many friends from around the world and we have a common interest in fighting terrorism and we have a common interest in winning because if the fanatical dictates of terrorism succeed the kind of world that we have enjoyed in Australia and the kind of world that I know you want to enjoy here in Afghanistan will not be realised.

Can I just take the opportunity of saying how enormously encouraged and impressed I was by the good heart and the professionalism and the commitment of the Australian forces I met today. They are establishing close links with the local people, which is a very important part of their mission. They are not just there on a military mission, they are also there on a friendship mission and (tape break) also bring friendship and developing close links and close cooperation with the Afghan National Army and also with the people of the province where they are based is a very, very important part of their mission.

So Mr President, I respect your courage. It’s not easy being President of a country that has gone through the great difficulty that your country has gone through and we in the relatively tranquil West do well to remind ourselves from time to time of the great struggles that leaders such as you have in the frontline in the fight against terrorism. And in our discussions we’ve recognised the challenge of the narcotics trade in your country, which is a source of concern to many in the West. But we are with you in the fight against terrorism and we remain committed, with our coalition partners, to contributing to the strengthening of your country.

PRESIDENT KARZAI:

Most welcome, Mr Prime Minister. Good to see you in Afghanistan.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, when President Musharraf was in Australia recently he suggested that Australia needed an exit strategy from Afghanistan, you seem to be going in the other direction. Any comments on why Australia should not have an exit strategy from Afghanistan?

PRIME MINISTER HOWARD:

Well I think the best thing that Australia can do in both Afghanistan and Iraq is to stay until the missions that we went to those two countries to involve ourselves in are completed.

JOURNALIST:

Can I ask both leaders, Australia has been considering sending a provincial reconstruction team to Afghanistan. Can I ask President Karzai, sir, what contribution would such a team make? And Mr Howard, what is the Australian Government’s current thinking on sending that team?

PRESIDENT KARZAI:

Well if Australia decides to send us a provincial reconstructive team, we in Afghanistan will be very happy and we will welcome them to participate in the reconstruction of Afghanistan. PRTs have two values – one is the assurance that their presence brings to the people of Afghanistan by offering a sense of continuity of the overall environment of security. The other benefit is that they engage in reconstruction activity, small and large. So for both purposes, the PRTs are in the interests of Afghanistan and in the interests of the fight against terrorism. So at any time if Australia decides to send a PRT we will welcome it.

PRIME MINISTER HOWARD:

Well for Australia’s part, that issue is still under consideration. We did indicate, when we decided to send the Task Group that I saw today, we did indicated that we will give consideration later on to a PRT and that remains the position.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, what sorts of dangers are the SAS confronting in the territory where their base is, where you visited?

PRIME MINISTER HOWARD:

I wouldn’t comment on any kind of operational matter except to say that there is danger.

JOURNALIST:

What sort of environment is it for them though, just generally?

PRIME MINISTER HOWARD:

I’m not, it’s an area of the country that has significant danger. But I am simply not going to talk in any way about the particular aspects of that threat, for reasons I’m sure you’ll understand.

JOURNALIST:

Question in local language.

PRESIDENT KARZAI:

Answer in local language.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister Howard, sir, I was wondering if I could ask you in Afghanistan’s present, or current position, which do you see has the more value, the war fighters, like the SAS, or the reconstructers like the engineers that we may be sending?

PRIME MINISTER HOWARD:

Well clearly the Task Group that we have here at the present time is doing a tremendous job, they’re very highly trained, they’re very capable and they have the attitude to the task, both the military part of it and also the hearts and minds part of it that I spoke of earlier. I don’t think you can try and weigh the two and say which is the more important. It seems to me that there are two challenges, there is clearly a military challenge in relation to terrorist activities and there’s also a challenge involved in helping the strengthening of institutions in this country and to the extent that any contribution we make, be it a combination of war fighters, as you call it, and people who are focusing on other things, they tend to reinforce one another. I don’t think though it’s a question of saying one is more important than the other, they are both quite important. That’s why we’re considering a PRT as well as a Task Group.

PRESIDENT KARZAI:

Let’s give the ladies a chance, then you.

JOURNALIST:

Question in local language

PRESIDENT KARZAI:

Forget it. The question was whether, that you have troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, if the situation in Iraq is…

JOURNALIST:

Question in local language

PRESIDENT KARZAI:

How do you compare the situation in Afghanistan with Iraq?

PRIME MINISTER HOWARD:

No, I don’t think there’s anything to achieve by my trying to compare them. There are obviously similarities and the similarity of course is in both countries terrorists are trying to prevent the emergence of democracies. That’s one of the similarities, but there are other areas of very significant difference. I don’t think there’s any thing, purpose served in my trying to compare the two. That is not a path that I am going to go down.

PRESIDENT KARZAI:

Exactly. What the press wants to get us into some sort of trouble. So we should avoid it.

JOURNALIST:

You just said that your country (inaudible) terrorism. In Afghanistan (inaudible) there is different ways to fight against terrorism. Why is the reconstruction (inaudible) troops. Which way do you prefer (inaudible) in the fight against terrorism?

PRIME MINISTER HOWARD:

Well the fight against terrorism in any country can only be won through a combination of a number of things. Clearly strong security forces are needed and building up strong security forces in Afghanistan is important, as it is very important in Iraq. Strong intelligence agencies are very important. I’ve often said that good intelligence is the best anti-terrorist weapon of all, there’s no doubt about that. But also encouraging the emergence of strong, open, democratic institutions and given that the common link between all the terrorist activities around the world is a perversion of a great world religion, Islam, making sure that those who would seek to pervert Islam to justify terrorism are defeated intellectually and spiritually as well as their so-called martyrs being defeated, militarily.

JOURNALIST:

Mr President, to Australians who are worried that their Government might be sending 200 more people into harm’s way in Afghanistan, what do you say to them, sir, about the sacrifice that those Australian soldiers might be asked to make?

PRESIDENT KARZAI:

Very good question sir. The Afghan people are immensely grateful for Australian sons and daughters to come all the way, thousands of miles away from their homes to serve in Afghanistan, but to serve for a cause that is ours together – it is the cause of the Afghan people and it is also the cause of the Australian people. It’s the cause of the world, it’s the cause of the humanity. The stability of Afghanistan will eventually be stability and peace in Australia, as it will the stability and peace in the rest of the world. So by serving in Afghanistan, and I hope that that service will be smooth and without danger, we are actually bringing stability to Afghanistan, the reconstruction to Afghanistan which needs it so badly, but by extension that service is also bringing stability and peace of mind to Australian people.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, one domestic question?

PRIME MINISTER HOWARD:

One domestic question?

JOURNALIST:

Just wondering, before you left South Korea you said that the Government could do no more for Van Nguyen, the convicted drug trafficker. Now in Australia the talk is that the Government might investigate and support an appeal to the…

PRIME MINISTER HOWARD:

I was asked a question about that and I said that if there were an approach to the Government then we would deal with that approach. The point I made in relation to the first part of your question was simply that when it came to representations to the Government of Singapore by the Australian Government I did not believe, given that I had raised the matter on four occasions with the Prime Minister, that the Governor-General had raised the matter on two occasions with the President, that I had raised the matter with the President, that the Foreign Minister had raised the matter with the Foreign Minister of Singapore on at least two occasions and also with the President of Singapore, and particularly in light of the lengthy face-to-face discussion I had with the Prime Minister of Singapore in Korea a couple of days ago and my relaying to him discussions I’d had with the man’s mother, I did not feel, and given the firm response of the Government of Singapore, it was against that background that I said that I did not feel that there was any point in making further representations. Now clearly I’m not going to comment on the status of the matter you’re referring to because I’m not, as I speak now, I’m not aware of any approach having been made. Obviously there are big question marks about the jurisdiction of international legal bodies in relation to a domestic decision. There can be, whatever people’s views are, there can be no doubt that the legal processes of Singapore have been properly followed. It has not been part of our case that they haven’t been, our case has been based on an appeal for clemency, it has not been based on an allegation that in some way what the courts did exceeded their legal authority. Thank you.

PRESIDENT KARZAI:

Thank you very much.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
World Headlines

 

North Korea: NZ Denounces Missile Test

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters has denounced North Korea’s latest ballistic missile test. The test, which took place this morning, is North Korea’s third test flight of an inter-continental ballistic missile. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: Zimbabwe - Meet The New Bosses

At 75, Mnangagwa is not exactly what you’d call a new broom. As many observers have pointed out, his track record has been one of unswerving dedication to Mugabe ever since the days of anti-colonial insurgency... To these guys, things had to change in Zimbabwe, so that things could remain the same. More>>

ALSO: