Switzerland is prepared to shift the focus of its aid for Afghanistan from short-term help to long-term development projects, a senior diplomat tells swissinfo.
State secretary for foreign affairs, Michael Ambühl, is representing Switzerland at the two-day London Conference on Afghanistan which started on Tuesday.
The international summit is to agree a five-year plan to boost reconstruction efforts in the central Asian country, and combat violence and narcotics.
The "Afghanistan Compact", which the international community is expected to sign up to in London, will be the mechanism for co-ordinating Afghan and international efforts over the next five years.
The British prime minister, Tony Blair, said at the opening ceremony that seeing Afghanistan become a stable democracy was "in the interests of the whole international community".
The American secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, said President Bush planned to ask Congress for $1.1 billion in aid for Afghanistan next year - a figure similar to aid for 2006. Britain has committed $800 million.
swissinfo: What are the Swiss government's priorities for the conference in London?
Michael Ambühl: First, it wishes to make use of the conference to renew its commitment to the Afghan government and the international community.
The Swiss government will congratulate its partners for the accomplishment of the Bonn process which has allowed Afghanistan to rebuild its institutional framework.
Switzerland will also announce its full support for the Afghanistan Compact.
Second, the Swiss government will announce the broad lines of its future engagement in Afghanistan in the field of development cooperation. While in past years Switzerland has placed special emphasis on humanitarian assistance, it now intends to implement longer-term programmes in the country.
swissinfo: Will you be going to the conference with the offer of more cash for or investment in Afghanistan? If so, in what areas is this likely to be?
M.A.: In accordance with its Medium-Term Strategy for Afghanistan, Switzerland will be further developing its programme on improving the living conditions of people living in remote and neglected rural areas as well as promoting human rights and good governance.
Switzerland will continue to place special emphasis on the transition from humanitarian aid to longer-term development to help Afghanistan achieve the Millennium Development Goals it set in its 2020 Vision.
swissinfo: What sort of concrete commitments can Switzerland offer Afghanistan over the next five years, the period of time to be discussed at the conference?
M.A.: In Tokyo and Berlin, Switzerland pledged a total contribution of at least $65 million (around SFr82 million) for the period 2002 –2006.
By the end of 2005, Switzerland had already disbursed SFr80 million, which is well in excess of the pledged amount.
In London, Switzerland will maintain its commitment to the reconstruction of Afghanistan by announcing further financial support of at least SFr100 million for the current and the coming four years.
swissinfo interview: Ramsey Zarifeh
The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) set up an office in Kabul in 2002, staffed by 22 people.
With an annual budget of SFr20 million, its main task is to monitor and maintain more than 30 projects and works with other development organizations to co-ordinate international assistance.
Switzerland has four officers deployed in Afghanistan as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
The London Conference on Afghanistan (January 31 and February 1) is being attended by the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, the United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, as well as ministers or senior representatives from more than 60 countries and international organisations.
The aim of the meeting is to launch the Afghanistan Compact, which will detail mutual commitments for the next five years across these key areas: security, governance, rule of law and human rights, economic and social development and counter narcotics.
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