SECRETARY POMPEO:  Good morning, everyone.  It is truly an honor to be here today.

I want to offer my thanks to his excellency the deputy prime minister and foreign minister of Qatar and my friend, Sheikh Mohammed, for Qatar’s amazing longstanding support for this effort.  We wouldn’t be at this moment without all the work that you and your team have done.  Bless you for that.

Today is truly a momentous occasion.  Afghans have at long last chosen to sit together and chart a new course for your country.  This is a moment that we must dare to hope.  As we look toward the light, we recall the darkness of four decades of war and the lost lives and opportunities, but it is remarkable and a testament to the human spirit that the pain and patterns of destruction are no match for the enduring hopes for peace held by all Afghan people and their many friends.

The United States will never forget the solidarity of our many allies and partners who have stood with us in the long struggle to end this war.  Today we want to also honor and remember them.

Nor will we, the United States, ever forget September 11th.  We welcome the Taliban commitment not to host international terrorist groups, including al-Qaida, nor to allow them to use Afghan territory to train, recruit, or to fundraise.

We welcome the same commitments by the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan that they should never permit their nation to serve as a base for international terrorists to threaten other countries.

I think everyone sitting (inaudible) hard work and sacrifice to reach this moment, and it will require enormously hard work and sacrifice to keep it alive and to take advantage of it so that the talks result in a durable peace.

Each of you – I hope you will look inside your hearts – each of you carry a great responsibility, but know – know that you’re not alone.  The entire world wants you to succeed and is counting on you succeeding.

On our part – on our part, the United States is a proponent of a sovereign, unified, and representative Afghanistan that is at peace with itself and with its neighbors.

I want to elaborate on each of those three words.  What do we mean when we say “sovereign, unified, and representative?”

First, sovereign:  We know that Afghans yearn to determine their own affairs.  It’s why you all are here.  Free from outside interference.  We hope you will enjoy cooperation and mutual respectful relations with your neighbors and other international partners and that you will indeed become self-reliant, liberated from the shackles of dependence on others.

Second, unified:  We know the tremendously negative and divisive impact that four decades of violence have had on Afghanistan and on the Afghan people.  Through an inclusive negotiation process, you each – you each have an opportunity.  You have an opportunity to overcome your divisions and reach agreement on a peaceful future for the benefit of all Afghans, and if – if Afghans embrace their common interest in a united Afghanistan while respecting the rich diversity of the country’s people, we believe with all our hearts that a durable peace is in fact possible. 

I would urge each of you to engage the representatives of all Afghan communities, including women, ethnic and religious minorities, and the victims of your country’s long war.  These historic negotiations should produce a political arrangement that accommodates competing views and rejects the use of violence to achieve political aims.

Third, representative:  Look, the choice of your political system is of course yours to make.  In the United States, we’ve found that democracy – notably the principle of peaceful resolution and rotation of political power – works best.  Democratic systems reflect the choices of the majority while protecting the human rights of everyone as they are made in the image of God.  This model – this model has yielded great peace and prosperity for us and for other democratic nation.  And while it is indeed the case that no one size fits all solution, the United States doesn’t seek to impose its system on others.  We believe firmly that protecting the rights of all Afghans is indeed the best way for you to break the cycle of violence.

Of course, I can only urge these actions.  You will write the next chapter in Afghan history.  We hope this chapter is one of reconciliation and progress, not another chronicle of tears and bloodshed.  We urge you to make decisions that move away from the violence and the corruption and towards peace and development and prosperity.

I urge you to preserve and to build upon the advancement of the social, economic, and political gains that Afghanistan has achieved in the past 20 years.

To cite one bright example, the expansion of women’s participation in public life, as illustrated by the presence here today of four prominent woman negotiators on the Islamic Republic team – a landmark achievement.  A landmark achievement of the U.S.-Taliban agreement was setting the stage for these negotiations.  We welcome your responsibility, your assumption of that responsibility.

I would urge you – as you make your decisions you should keep in mind that your choices and conduct will affect both the size and scope of United States future assistance.  Our hope – our hope is that you will reach a sustainable peace and our goal is an enduring partnership with Afghanistan.

Finally, I join you in savoring this moment of hope.  We should all be proud of this very moment.  It took much work and good faith on the parts of many, many people and many, many parties to get to this very moment.  I am mindful and I know each of you are as well that we will undoubtedly encounter many challenges during the talks over the coming days and weeks and months.

When you do, remember that you’re acting not only for this generation of Afghans but for future generations as well, your children and your grandchildren.  So I cannot strongly enough urge you:  Seize this opportunity.  Protect this process.  Respect each other.  Be patient.  Remain focused on the mission.  We’re prepared to support your negotiations should you ask, but this time is yours.  This time is yours.  I pray that you will seize the moment.

Thank you again for having me here on this historic occasion.  May the Lord bless us all.  (Applause.)

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future