Time to Turn the Page (of History)
Earlier this week, Tashkent hosted an international high-level conference on Afghanistan “Peace Process, Security Cooperation and Regional Connectivity”. The forum organized at the initiative of Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev triggered great in
A host of leaders and other officials visited our capital to participate in the conference, including President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, the UN Special Representative for Afghanistan, Tadamichi Yamamoto, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, as well as high-ranking diplomats of the United States, Britain, Germany, Italy, France, Turkey, Russia, China, India, Iran, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, representatives of 25 states and international organizations.
In most of the world over the past 40 years, a generation has grown up, collided in some way with the Afghan war. The victims of this unjust and bloody war were someone’s sons, some relatives or neighbors. This ruthless war took the lives of innocent people, and its terrible echoes fell upon other countries, destroyed thousands of families, leaving behind orphans. Therefore, the news of commissioning our conscripts to Afghanistan on military service filled our hearts with fear and panic. Fathers hid from their parents that their son was sent to serve in Afghanistan, tried to suppress harboring mental anguish. And mothers always prayed to the Almighty asking for their kids to return home alive and healthy.
President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani: The world has changed, the strategic rules of war are completely ignored by the adversary, attacks are aimed at civilians, women, children, the opponent is waging war against hospitals and schools, public life. But we live in a historic moment, when we achieved a breakthrough in the fight against global terrorism.
Unfortunately, over the years, Afghanistan has turned from a battlefield into a hotbed of the spread of such crimes as drug trafficking, terrorism, extremism. The conflicts, dicord and violence, bloodshed on this land began to pose a threat to all regions of the world.
If peace reigned in Afghanistan, the events of September 11, 2001, would not have occurred, thousands of people would not have become victims of terrorism. If peaceful and nonviolent life reigned in this country, religious extremist movements would not have taken root, in the different parts of the country, destructive forces would not have formed, then the terrorist organization, the so-called Islamic State, the illegal trade in narcotic drugs and weapons would not pose a danger not only for neighboring states, but for the entire world community. EU High Representative Federica Mogherini: Our message to those who are still waging war: choose the path of dialogue and armistice, have the courage to start peace talks. Then we can support you, we will become partners in this dialogue. And we will help you finish this war and establish peace.
As the head of our state noted, in fact the ‘fire of war’ was imposed on the Afghan people from outside, and that was not their choice. Over the years, hundreds of thousands of civilians have been the victims of the confrontation, millions of people have been forced to flee their homes and seek refuge in other countries.
Confrontations and conflicts in this country have a negative impact on the active processes of integration of Central Asian nations into the world economy. For example, peaceful Afghanistan due to trade and economic, transport and logistics opportunities across the sea would provide Uzbekistan with the shortest access to other regions.
The long-standing Afghan conflict pushed the life of the Afghan people back to several decades ago. The crisis that arose there and the impoverished people are waiting for a joint practical decision on this issue from the world community, and the problem has long been global. In this connection, a number of projects have been implemented in recent years, contact groups have been organized.
Uzbekistan participated in international and regional conferences of various formats held in 2017 on the resolution of the Afghan conflict, including the Moscow extended session (April), the Kabul Process (June), the Conference on Regional Economic Cooperation for the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (Ashgabat, November), the Istanbul Heart of Asia Process (Baku, NovemberDecember) and the meeting of the International Contact Group (Oslo, December).
At the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev outlined Uzbekistan’s position on stabilizing the situation in Afghanistan, and presented concrete proposals on this matter. At an international conference held in November in Samarkand under the auspices of the United Nations, “Central Asia: One Past and a Common Future, Cooperation for Sustainable Development and Mutual Prosperity”, initiatives were launched regarding the integration of Afghanistan into regional economic processes. During the high-level meetings of the Presidents of Uzbekistan and Afghanistan, the constructive stance of our country on this front was cemented through mutually beneficial agreements.
Organized by the initiative of the head of our state, the latest forum differs from previous international conferences in that it is aimed at finding concrete solutions to the Afghan problem. Therefore, the initiative to hold it was widely supported by the international community. During this conference aimed at achieving peace and security in Afghanistan, through this peace process, not only in Central Asia, but also in the surrounding regions, prestigious international organizations, political scientists and experts expressed the opinion that it is of practical importance thanks to the concrete proposals put forward to solve the problems of the Afghan people.
US Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Shannon: The military track does not solve the problem, and all parties should unite in their desire to have the Afghan government and the Taliban at the negotiating table. Without the participation of the Taliban, the problem of Afghanistan cannot be addressed.
President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Mohammad Ashraf Ghani noted that the initiative of Uzbekistan to ensure peace and security in Afghanistan is quite valuable.
The European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, expressed in her speech support for initiatives to stabilize the situation in Afghanistan and noted that this issue is in the constant focus of the European Union.
Great interest in the forum was expressed by the United Nations. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres sent a video message to the participants of the conference and noted the special importance of the forum for achieving peace in Afghanistan.
After the ceremony of official photographing of the participants, the Tashkent International Conference continued its work during panel sessions. Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergei Lavrov stressed the significance of the fact that the initiative on the settlement of the Afghan problem originates from the countries of the region themselves, the Tashkent Conference is a timely and essential political process, and that the international community expects positive results from it.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov: The positive dynamics in the relations within the Central Asian ‘five’ observed lately creates the conditions for more effective contribution to the provision of assistance to Afghanistan. We are convinced of the need for more active involvement of the potential of associations with the participation of Central Asian states.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu stressed that the Tashkent conference is of great importance in stabilizing the situation in Afghanistan and will help speed up the process of reconciliation of the opposing forces.
US Deputy Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon noted that Uzbekistan, through its initiatives to ensure peace and security in Afghanistan, makes a worthy contribution to the development of the countries of the region, stepping up their cooperation, therefore this conference is perceived by the international community as a practical solution to the problem under discussion.
The Deputy Foreign Minister of the People’s Republic of China, Li Baodong, underscored the need to support Afghanistan from neighboring countries in order to build up its investment, trade and transport potential.
The Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Khawaj Muhammad Asif, noted that the troubled situation in Afghanistan has a negative effect on the situation in the countries of the near and far abroad, so the expected results can only be provided by concerted actions of all parties for the sake of peace in this country.
The conference participants agreed that the use by some geopolitical forces of the situation in Afghanistan for their own purposes hinders the aspirations to improve the situation in that country. As a consequence, conditions are created for a deeper advance of militants of terrorist organizations across Afghanistan and turning it into their testing ground.
Afghanistan is located in an important cross-border region. It is the Central Asian states that are most interested in cooperation with this country. At the conference, the heads of the foreign ministries of the Central Structure Yevgeny Sysoev, Special Representative of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Afghanistan and Pakistan Rolf Willy Hansen and others spoke at the international conference.
Proposals and initiatives were put forward to establish peace in Afghanistan, restore the socioeconomic structure of this country, and fully promote its integration into regional economic processes.
As an outcome of the conference, its participants signed the Tashkent Declaration. The document reflects such gracious goals as ensuring peace and security in the region, strengthening cooperation in all areas, furthering the relations of good-neighborliness.
Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov: The Tashkent Declaration has become one of the indicators of joint work and unity in the approaches to the solution of the Afghan issue. This is an indicator that the world community
special gratitude to the President of Uzbekistan for initiating the historic event and its organization, along with the government and the people of our country.
Worth noting that in the press center set up for the international conference, which in the last days worked round the clock, everything essential was created for the complete and creative work of numerous national and foreign journalists. Here, before the opening of the forum, and during its days, meetings took place with experts and conference participants, and media representatives could get all the information they needed, and exchange opinions with colleagues.
Thus, the correspondent of the Russian Nezavisimaya Gazeta Viktoria Panfilova noted that there had been a great deal of meetings and forums on the problem of Afghanistan before the Tashkent conference. But the latter is a very important and historic step. In her opinion, the President of Uzbekistan will probably succeed in affording a positive effect on the protracted Afghan crisis.
The Afghan journalist Suleiman Kayumi said that his country is closely watched these days for the events in Tashkent and expressed hope that the conference will give a powerful impetus to achieving the well-being of his homeland.