An international conference on Afghanistan, “The Peace Process, Interaction towards Security, and Regional Cooperation”, is due late March in Tashkent. The urgency of the meeting grows from one day to another, one may say. A telling testimony to this argument is a recent report by UN experts.
Nothing will help mirror the situation in Afghanistan better than statistics: in the year 2017 alone, a total of 3,438 residents from among peaceful citizens were killed in the country, coupled with 7,015 injured. The number of casualties compared to 2016 decreased by 9%, but the number of deaths from the hands of suicide bombers, as well as people who have been blown up by mines, increased. In 2017, air strikes of the international armed forces and the air force of Afghanistan grew in frequency and magnitude. The number of their victims compared to the previous year rose by 7 percent: 295 Afghans were killed and 336 were injured. The most terrible side of this situation is that the principal victims of the conflict are women and children. Last year, 359 women were killed and 865 injured in the country. The number of sufferers among children: 861 killed and 2,318 wounded.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, and the head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) Tadamichi Yamamoto immediately reacted to the announcement of the figures.
Afghanistan’s civilians are killed daily: when they ride on a bus, pray in mosques, just pass by the building that was the object of the attack. People from year to year continue to live in dangerous conditions, but at the same time those responsible for the fact that people are dying and live in constant fear go unpunished, al-Hussein said in a statement.
“The chilling statistics in this report provide credible data about the war’s impact, but the figures alone cannot capture the appalling human suffering inflicted on ordinary people,” said UNAMA chief Yamamoto.
International experts agree that Tashkent, through effective diplomacy and practical strides, has been working towards plausible effects in ensuring peace in Afghanistan. Indicative of this have been the recent talks between Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov and his colleagues in India and Pakistan as well as the President of Iran, when the negotiations focused on Afghanistan.
Obvious as it is, creation of a security belt around Uzbekistan is inconceivable without the settlement of the Afghan crisis and arrangement of post-conflict reconstruction. Tashkent has always been a supporter of a peaceful resolution through talks, and the year 2017 once again clearly underscored that aspiration. The relations between the two nations were afforded such dynamics last year that the bilateral meetings were far from episodic.
Thus, in Kabul, the Uzbek government delegation was received in early 2017 by the President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani, the head of the executive branch Abdullah Abdullah and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Salahuddin Rabbani. As a result of the meetings, the two sides elaborated and adopted a roadmap for the development of cooperation. Its implementation, according to forecasts of specialists, will make it possible to increase the bilateral turnover manifold in the coming years and bring it up to 1.5 billion US dollars. The effects of the talks did not make one to wait long; in fact, for the first eight months of 2017 the volume of mutual trade between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan grew by 21.8%.
The shared desire to enhance trade and economic ties resulted in agreements on organizing annual long-term supplies from Uzbekistan to Afghanistan of up to 300,000 tons of mineral fertilizers, two thousand units of agricultural machinery, 250,000 tons of wheat and other products in demand on the Afghan market. In addition, representatives of businesses concluded contracts for the supply of medicines and medical products, ambulances, food wheat, electrical appliances to Afghanistan.
The culmination of bilateral activity occurred in late 2017, when Uzbekistan was visited by Ashraf Ghani. That was the sixth meeting of the two heads of state for the year.
As a result of talks at the highest level, 20 documents were signed, as were more than 40 export contracts totaling over $ 500 million, an agreement was reached on establishing a commission on security issues, opening a consulate of Afghanistan in Termez, building a power transmission line and a railway in the Islamic Republic.
2018 also started in the same way. In February, the UzbekAfghan Joint Security Commission met in Tashkent for the first time and the Uzbek Foreign Minister held talks with the Senior National Security Adviser to the President of Afghanistan, Mohammad Haneef Atmar. Then, special significance was attached on the preparations for the international conference on Afghanistan scheduled for late March. One of its key outcomes should be the urge of participants to all groups of armed opposition in Afghanistan to cease all violence.