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Foreign Minister Paet: Our Soldiers in Afghanistan are Protecting the Lives of the Estonian People

08.02.2011

No. 47-E

In his annual foreign policy address to the Riigikogu today, Foreign Minister Urmas Paet emphasised that as a result of the activities of the international mission in Afghanistan, the number of terrorist attacks in the world have decreased. “Our soldiers are in Afghanistan so that the whole world would be more secure and the potential terrorist attacks that pose a threat to all people, including Estonians, would be prevented,” he said.

Paet stated that all of society should be supportive of those soldiers that have been injured on the mission. “Estonia has suffered very tragic human losses in Afghanistan. But we must also keep in mind that by paying this price, the security of our people has been strengthened,” he asserted.

The foreign minister stated that today, at the beginning of the 21st century, Estonia’s security is better ensured than ever before, but the constantly changing security environment is presenting us with new and global challenges that we have to be prepared to deal with. “One of our main objectives in the security sector is securing conditions for the transferring of security responsibilities in Afghanistan within the next few years,” he said.

Foreign Minister Paet said that Estonia will continue to contribute to the Afghanistan mission on the principle that since we decided to begin the mission together with our allies, the decision to end it must also be made together. “By being active in Afghanistan we are contributing to the fight against terrorism and increasing our capabilities in the development and civilian co-operation sphere,” he emphasised.

Paet added that Estonia has channelled most of its capabilities in the civilian and development co-operation sphere into Afghanistan. “Last year we doubled the number of our police officers in the European Union’s police mission, EUPOL, and dispatched four civilian police officers to the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan (NTM-A),” he said. “In addition to the military doctors presently serving in Afghanistan, there are plans for dispatching a five-member team of surgeons to Helmand Province in April,” Paet stated.

The foreign minister said that Estonia will also continue to give first aid training in Helmand, in the course of which over two years more than 1 000 women in Helmand Province have been trained and first aid kits have been supplied to many families. “The project to give supplementary training to health workers is also continuing, as are the activities of the Estonian health care expert,” he said.

Paet noted that while visiting Afghanistan in January he met with schoolchildren at the friendship school to Tallinn’s Pae Secondary School in Kabul. “I became convinced that young Afghans have a great desire to learn and are very hopeful about the future. And we can help to fulfil their dreams,” he stated. The foreign minister added that in fact, our development co-operation in Kabul is mainly focused upon the educational sphere. “This year our aim is to equip the Kabul University Afghanistan Centre with an information system. We are also supporting the construction of the Centre as well as the preserving of information materials in the National Archives and the publishing of their new books,” he said.

In talking about security topics, the foreign minister also mentioned security co-operation between Estonia and the United States. “Estonia greatly values its bilateral security co-operation with the U.S., including joint military exercises as well as collective activities as NATO allies in Afghanistan and in the sphere of increasing cyber security. It is also heartening that new spheres of co-operation are being added, like supporting the European Union Eastern Partners, energy security, and development co-operation,” said Paet.

Foreign Minister Paet added that the close relationship that exists between the United States and Estonia was once again confirmed in the course of his visit to Washington in January, during which Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed her pleasure over such a dependable, creative and close ally as Estonia. “Estonia has in the course of just 20 years become one of the most successful models for emerging nationhood anywhere in the world, with its growth as a wired-in nation of internet voters and cyber innovators and its commitment to good governance, the rule of law, and fiscal responsibility,” said Foreign Minister Paet, quoting the words of the American secretary of state.

Full text of the annual foreign policy address to the Riigikogu can be found here: http://www.vm.ee/?q=en/node/10792

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