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International relations

Japan pledges $720m for Afghan reconstruction at UN conference

Tokyo 'ready to consider additional support,' Motegi says

Internally displaced Afghan girls read the Koran at a mosque in Kabul.   © Reuters

ISLAMABAD -- Japan pledged some $720 million over the next four years for Afghan reconstruction at an international conference in Geneva on Tuesday that brought together over 80 countries and international organizations to help the war-torn country recover from years of violence.

Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, in his statement, said, "Japan continues to stand with the Afghan government and its people. We will work on providing assistance from 2021 to 2024, maintaining the amount comparable to the past four years, which was $180 million per year."

The meeting, held at the United Nations' European headquarters and online due to the coronavirus pandemic, is set to unveil financial assistance for the period between 2021 and 2024.

Afghanistan has relied on outside assistance for most of its national budget. But the international community is seeking to build up the country's capacity during what is often described as the "decade of transformation" from 2015 to 2024.

The Afghan government and the Taliban have been in talks since September for permanent cease-fire. But the country remains unstable amid a spate of attacks by the Taliban and terror attacks by the Islamic State extremist group.

"For the negotiations to move forward, we call on all the concerned parties for an immediate and comprehensive cease-fire. We strongly hope that the negotiations will lead to sustainable peace, and ensure the achievements of the nation-building in the past 19 years," Motegi said.

The Afghan reconstruction meeting followed similar meetings in 2012 and 2016. The international community pledged over $16 billion for Afghan reconstruction at the first meeting in Tokyo and $15.2 billion at the second one in Brussels.

Japan has provided some $6.8 billion over the period between the collapse of the Taliban-led government in Afghanistan in 2001 and this month, according to its Foreign Ministry.

Motegi said that with progress in the peace process, Japan is "ready to consider additional support" beyond the amount just committed over the next four years.

"From this standpoint, it is important that the Afghan government take on full responsibility to make progress on issues such as the rule of law and anti-corruption under the Afghanistan Partnership Framework -- only then, can our assistance be provided."

Japanese assistance, he said, will continue to focus on areas such as agriculture, rural development, education, health and infrastructure.

The United States sent troops into Afghanistan in 2001 to go up against the al-Qaida organization and the Taliban, which harbored the group, in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

It reached a peace agreement with Taliban insurgents in February under which all U.S. troops would withdraw within 14 months if the Taliban meets its commitments, including to a reduction in violence.

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