Big progress on Afghan peace: Ambassador Stefano Pontecorvo


Kabul: Ambassador Stefano Pontecorvo, the Senior Civilian Representative of NATO to Afghanistan, is confident about peace in Afghanistan.
In an interview in Kabul, the veteran diplomat said reaching peace was not easy after forty years of conflict in Afghanistan but big progress had been made. Following are the excerpts from the interview:
Question: We are very much eager to hear you and your mission in Afghanistan?
Ambassador Stefano Pontecorvo: Actually, for me, it is not the first time. I have some very vivid memories of my time here and hopefully I will have more.

Question: How do you see the progress in the Afghan peace process till now?
Ambassador Stefano Pontecorvo: Reaching peace is not easy after forty years of conflict in this country. But big progress has been made. NATO has supported Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad’s efforts to get the two sides to the peace table. I think there is a certain momentum. Both sides have understood that there is no military solution to the conflict. The afghan people are asking for peace. They will not forget or forgive those who stand in the way of peace. So I think we are getting there.
Question: Besides the Afghan consensus, we need global and regional consensus. How do you see this, as we are witnessing a lot of conflicts and new issues especially between Washington and Russia? How do you see the global and regional consensus till now?

Ambassador Stefano Pontecorvo: I would say there is a unanimous consensus, regionally and internationally that the ultimate goal of peace in Afghanistan is supported by everybody. I welcome the initiative by the Afghanistan foreign minister who created a forum for regional and international partners. The consensus there, with no exception, was that we support peaceful agreement between Afghans, the Intra-Afghan negotiations, and that we hope to get there as soon as possible, and that the government’s stance is supported. And to have a stable and prosperous Afghanistan, the gains of the last 19 years that the Afghan society has made need to be reserved. We cannot go back on those because those, only the gains that the Afghan society and people has made, will ensure for a stable and peaceful Afghanistan. We are proud of being a part of it
Question: How was your experience of engagement with Afghan society, the government, the officials, and other political conspiracies that Afghanistan has. You know the sensitivity of Afghan society. It is without any doubt difficult to get engaged with every party with the size of conflict and political parties. How do you see your experience and how do you observe your experiences with the government and political faces in Afghanistan?

Ambassador Stefano Pontecorvo: I have had engagements with government officials starting from President Ashraf Ghani, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah to all the main political personalities in these countries. I have reached out to groups, parties, women, youth, and media. I find that it is a very sophisticated society. It is a society that knows well what it wants, and it wants peace, stability, and the gains of the last 19 years preserved. So I think that all Afghans know what they want, know how to get there, and that they are very well prepared to get into the Intra-Afghan negotiations. We hope that unity will prevail, and we are sure that it will prevail. Because unity and the team along the table is what will deal with the negotiations. I am confident that things will work out. Afghans will work out the differences and will be able to deliver a peaceful Afghanistan to Afghans first and then the region. Just as a closing remark, NATO is committed to… We don’t want to stay here forever, but we are committed to assisting for as long as we need to be here, and that will be decided by the Afghan government.