3 November 2011Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has stressed that establishing peace in Afghanistan will strengthen stability in the entire region and lauded regional efforts to find ways to enhance security in the Asian country as it prepares for the transition with the pull out of foreign forces in the next two years. “It has long been recognized that peace and stability in Afghanistan are essential for peace and stability throughout the region,” Mr. Ban said in a message to a regional conference on Afghanistan convened by Turkey in Istanbul yesterday. “We are all too aware of the many ways in which the prolonged conflict affects not only the Afghan people, but also their neighbours,” said the Secretary-General in a message delivered on his behalf by Staffan de Mistura, his Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). He said the conference was an encouraging initiative to strengthen regional cooperation as Afghanistan embarks on the transition process. “Transition is primarily a process by which the Government of Afghanistan will reinforce its sovereignty, ownership and leadership. “The Government has sought to do precisely that during preparations for this conference, by seeking to be not merely the subject but the catalyst. I applaud this vision, this leadership and the efforts to reach out to the country’s neighbours,” he added. Meanwhile, Mr. Ban has urged the international community to reaffirm its conviction that cultural diversity is humanity’s strength and not a weakness. “Cultural diversity is our common heritage. Its protection is an ethical imperative, inseparable from respect for human dignity,” the Secretary-General said in a message yesterday to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity adopted by Member States of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) a decade ago. “Making the most of cultural diversity calls for new policies of inclusion and participation,” said Mr. Ban.