Fighting terrorism: Tashkent holds peace summit on Afghanistan

MARIA BEAT
Published
Police stand guard in the street after a suicide bombing in front of Kabul University, Kabul, Afghanistan, March 21, 2018.
Police stand guard in the street after a suicide bombing in front of Kabul University, Kabul, Afghanistan, March 21, 2018.

The goverment of Uzbekistan is holding a high-level international conference on Afghanistan in Tashkent amid the crises of global and regional terrorism

We live in a world where the war and terrorism is an everyday reality. People die in action on the battlefield, from shells and bombs at home and are attacked by terrorists in the streets of peaceful cities and towns, market places, restaurants, discos and concert halls.

Just last Friday, the world was shocked once again by a treacherous terrorist attack in Trebes, a small town in southern France, which took the life of three civilians and one police officer. More than 200 people have fallen victim to terrorist attacks in France since 2015.

Turkey has been fighting against terrorism for nearly 40 years. On Jan 20, 2018, it launched the counterterrorism Operation Olive Branch to clean the Afrin region in northern Syria bordering Turkey of the People's Protection Units (YPG), which are affiliated with the PKK. The PKK, a group recognized as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the EU and U.S., has had a significant presence in Europe for decades. Ignoring warnings from Ankara on PKK terrorism, Europe has allowed its undisrupted growth and now faces a continuous threat from the PKK and its affiliated groups.

Peace for Afghanistan

Fighting terrorism is a matter of the highest concern for world leaders at large. On March 26-27, the government of Uzbekistan is holding a high-level international conference on Afghanistan in Tashkent. The Peace Process, Cooperation in the Sphere of Security and Regional Interaction conference is bringing together U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and special representative for Afghanistan and head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) Tadamichi Yamamoto, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini as well as the foreign ministers of China, Russia, the U.S., the U.K., France, Germany, Italy, Turkey, India, Iran, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The summit was jointly opened by Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who both delivered their keynote speeches at the opening ceremony. The conference is a follow-up to the Second Meeting of the Kabul Process on Feb. 28, 2018, which took place in the Afghan capital as a logical extension of the efforts undertaken by the international community to secure peace and stability in the country. The Tashkent meeting aims to get the conference participants to express a consolidated position on the necessity of starting direct negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

The March 26-27 summit also comes as the immediate aftermath of a detailed peace offer Ghani laid out to the Taliban whereby the Afghan government announced unconditional peace in a bid to bring the Taliban to the table for peace talks. Exhausted by the decades-long devastating war, Afghanistan's political parties, influential figures and people of wisdom fervently support the government's initiative to find a peaceful solution to the current crisis, put aside previous bad and bloody experiences and prevent them from repeating.

The Kabul Process

The Kabul Process meeting this February was a recognized success both due to its high-profile attendees from 26 countries, the EU and two international organizations, and a clearly worded four-page declaration on peace and reconciliation, and security cooperation and counterterrorism.

By adopting the Kabul Declaration, the participants reaffirmed their belief in the U.N. as a key authority for cooperation to counter terrorist threats as well as the necessity to fully implement relevant United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions.

It reaffirmed as well "that the Kabul Process must lead to the renunciation of violence and breaking of all ties to international terrorism, as well as respect for the equal rights of all Afghans, including women, under the Afghan Constitution. Hence, we appreciate the Kabul Process as a main forum and vehicle under the leadership of the Afghan Government to lead peace efforts to end violence in Afghanistan."

The meeting also reiterated the call made by the first Kabul Process meeting on June 6, 2017 on all armed groups to cease violence and start peace talks with the government by saying: "We strongly support the Afghan Government's commitment to forging a practical plan for reconciliation, which includes negotiation of various issues and any contested aspect of the international community's future role in Afghanistan."

Contribution to reconciliation

As an extension to the Kabul Process meetings, the Tashkent Peace Summit on Afghanistan reiterates in its final declaration the main points that buttresses the Kabul Process. It emphasizes the key role of the U.N. and necessity of an indisputable compliance with the provisions of the U.N. General Assembly and UNSC resolutions and calls for a "guaranteed integration of the armed opposition into the political life of Afghanistan and its recognition as a legitimate political force" of life of the Afghan society.

Participants at the Tashkent meeting express in the declaration their utmost opposition to "all forms and manifestations of terrorism […] and recognize that the threats of transnational terrorism, drug trafficking and organized crime are common challenges to stability and sustainable development both for Afghanistan, the region as a whole and the world at large."

The Tashkent Summit is a follow-up as well to the first meeting of the newly established cooperation format Central Asia and Afghanistan, or C5+1, envisaged to focus on specific areas of interaction between the Central Asian countries and Afghanistan. It was created to contribute to Afghanistan's successful integration into regional trade and economy as well as for infrastructure development in Central Asia.

An immediate neighbor of Afghanistan, Uzbekistan is an active participant in almost all the international forums addressing the Afghan crisis such as the Kabul Process, Moscow Format, Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process, International Contact Group on Afghanistan, Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Afghanistan Contact Group and the Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA).

Added value of peace

Since its independence, Uzbekistan has always been an ardent supporter of a political settlement to the Afghan crisis, believing that building lasting peace in Afghanistan will bring stability and prosperity to Central Asia as a whole. Afghanistan's peaceful development is of indisputable benefit for the economic prosperity of the countries in the region. A peaceful Afghanistan would ensure the shortest possible access to the harbors on the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf for Central Asian countries to connect India, Iran and Pakistan to the markets of Europe and the Middle East. The region is rich in natural resources and enjoys unique cultural and civilizational potential for major influence on the development of many countries and entire regions.

As a landlocked country bordering almost all the countries of Central Asia, Uzbekistan is dependent on fiduciary relations with them and wants the region to be a zone of stability, sustainable development and good neighborly relations. According to Mirziyoyev, a peaceful and prosperous Central Asia is a key task for Uzbekistan to achieve.

To make peace in the region feasible, the conflict in Afghanistan must be resolved by peaceful means, since historically and geopolitically the country is an integral part of Central Asian, which is "the heart of Eurasia […] connecting Europe and the Middle East, South and East Asia," according to Mirziyoyev. In the meantime, Central Asia is a crossing point of interests of world powers, and the region has become more than once a hotspot of instability and conflict and was directly impacted by the ongoing destabilizing processes in the near and far abroad.

Prospective development

All this raises the legitimate question of what is next in terms of regional developments. Will the region proceed in line with the projected scenario of conflicts and confrontation or follow a path of cooperation and progress?

Most probably this will depend on the readiness of Central Asian governments to assume responsibility for the common future of the region. As such, Uzbekistan is increasingly building its position of a proactive contributor and stakeholder in the process for a peace settlement and reconciliation in Afghanistan. It strongly believes that the future of Afghanistan is to be determined and built by the people of Afghanistan.

* Freelance journalist living in Istanbul

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