Uzbekistan seeks bigger role in Afghan-Taliban peace talks

Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev. Photograph:( Reuters )

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Mar 07, 2018, 07.18 AM (IST)

Uzbekistan wants to establish a new venue for peace talks between the government of neighbouring Afghanistan and the Taliban, it said on Tuesday, having invited the world’s top diplomats to a conference later this month.

As per media reports, the conference will be held on 26 to 27 March in Tashkent with the aim to jumpstart the “Afghan-owned, Afghan-led process for national reconciliation”, its foreign ministry said in a statement.

It is unclear, however, whether any Taliban representatives will be present at the meeting where Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is set to deliver a keynote speech.

The meeting will be the first such event to be hosted by Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, who came to power in 2016 and has pledged to open up the resource-rich nation of 32 million to the outside world.

An extravagant number of high-ranking officials are said to attend the conference including the UN Secretary-General António Guterres, UN Special Representative for Afghanistan Tadamiti Yamamoto and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Magerini will attend the conference.

Other than that, foreign ministers of China, Russia, the United States, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, France, Turkey, India, Iran, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are also expected to attend the conference.

The representatives are expected to voice their consolidated position at the regional and global levels on the need for the early start of direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban without any preconditions being put forward. 

Mirziyoyev’s office said last week that US President Donald Trump supported the conference in a message, saying his “administration is considering the composition of the relevant delegation of the United States”.

The Uzbek foreign ministry said it expected the meeting to adopt the resolution calling for “guaranteed integration of the armed opposition into the political life of Afghanistan” while condemning “all forms and manifestations of terrorism”.

“Initiating the Tashkent Conference, Uzbekistan by no means intends to confine itself to arranging it as a one-off event, but to continue with vigorous efforts – both bilaterally and multilaterally – to promote a peaceful political process in Afghanistan,” it said.

Mirziyoyev took over the predominantly Muslim former Soviet republic after the death of President Islam Karimov who had run it for more than a quarter of a century.

Tashkent’s ties with the West were strained under Karimov who was often criticised over his government’s human rights abuses.

Mirziyoyev has promised to liberalise the resource-rich nation and has embarked on a diplomatic campaign to bring in much-needed foreign investment.

(With inputs from Reuters)