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The conference was eagerly welcomed among the world community and was widely acclaimed as a big success. For the first time in recent history, all active players in the region with all their diverse views on Afghan crisis gathered together to find common approaches on Afghanistan. Tashkent Conference on Afghanistan opened a broad path for consolidation of regional and international efforts on ensuring peace and stability in this country.

The President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, as well as the heads of ministries of foreign affairs of China, France, Germany, India, Iran, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, the United Arab Emirates, the UK, and the USA, representatives of 25 countries and international organizations arrived in Uzbekistan to participate in this event.

In his opening speech at the conference, Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev stressed that confrontations and conflicts in Afghanistan have
negatively impacted the processes of integration of Central Asian countries into the world economy. “Peaceful Afghanistan would boost trade and economy, transport and logistics opportunities, provide Uzbekistan with the shortest exit to other regions”, he added.

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.

European Union expressed interest in a stable and prosperous Central Asia and Afghanistan. “This is very much about large infrastructure projects and energy corridors, connecting this region to the rest of the world “, said High Representative Mogherini and added that this is also why “we are ready to support more trilateral projects – between Afghanistan, Central Asia, and the European Union”. Afghan students are already coming to Uzbekistan to get their higher education or professional training. EU top diplomat hailed Tashkent’s initiative and said that Europe could explore new opportunities for cooperation, to invest together in the talent of the Afghan youth.

High Representative Mogherini underlined the importance of the international community – including regional partners – delivering on their commitment to promoting peace and prosperity in Afghanistan. Concrete regional projects involving the Central Asian countries, aiming at increasing connections with Afghanistan, such as railways, air links, and pipelines were recognized as important steps in this regard. She expressed gratitude to the President of Uzbekistan for initiating the Tashkent Conference and called this event as a “real game changer”.
Foreign Minister of the Republic of Uzbekistan Abdulaziz Kamilov said that 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 expresses special gratitude to the President of Uzbekistan the government and the people of our country for initiating and organizing this historic event”, he said.
Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani stressed that the Tashkent Conference is a manifestation of regional and international support for the Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process, as “we collectively renew our shared call on the Taliban to take advantage of an unprecedented opportunity to cease violence against their own people and to opt for direct peace talks with the Government of Afghanistan”.

The forum participants came up with a consolidated position to start negotiations between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban as soon as possible without any preconditions. They acknowledged that peace and security in Afghanistan were essential for ensuring stability and prosperity in the region. Therefore, the participants expressed commitment to a political settlement that is Afghan-led and Afghan-owned, supported by close regional counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics cooperation, and regional economic cooperation and connectivity.

All participating countries called on the Taliban to recognize their share of responsibility for bringing peace and security to Afghanistan in order to end the suffering of the Afghan people and officially declare their willingness for entering into direct peace talks with the Government of Afghanistan with full support from the international community through a mutually agreed format.
The conference in Tashkent highlighted the potential re-emergence of Uzbekistan as key diplomatic player in the region. The country of 32 million people boasts a strategic location in Central Asia, bordering all Central Asian countries as well as Afghanistan. New Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, who came to power in 2016, has worked to improve ties with regional neighbours.

As per experts’ opinion “Tashkent appears to be firmly set on replicating the “Asian paradox” in the region”, in which political problems are no hindrance to the development of economic relations.” In September 2017, Mirziyoyev took to the podium of the UN to announce the dawn of a new political atmosphere in the region and called for regular consultative meetings among the heads of Central Asian Nations.

Later in November, an international conference took place in Samarkand under the auspices of the UN, with the spotlight on regional problems. At the EU-Central Asia ministerial meeting that same month, EU foreign policy head Federica Mogherini said that there had never before been such a “positive and constructive” dialogue in the region, adding that the spirit of cooperation had appeared thanks to the new Uzbek President.

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