2020-05-28 › US, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan Agree to Expand Cooperation

Senior officials from Afghanistan, the United States and Uzbekistan on Wednesday held a virtual meeting on the situation in Afghanistan, and the three pledged to work together and address mutual issues of concern including political ties, security and economic and human development matters.
The meeting was co-chaired by American Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale, Afghanistan's acting Foreign Minister Mohammed Haneef Atmar, and Uzbekistan's Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov.  

Later on, the three countries issued a joint statement in which the three nations pledged to further expand their cooperation.
The first part of the joint statement reads that the three countries are “committed to greater cooperation among themselves" and call on countries of the region and the broader international community "to promote the Afghanistan peace process and to support the goal of a durable political settlement preserving the gains of the past 18 years to end the war in that country.”  
The joint statement also welcomed the political agreement between President Ashraf Ghani and his election rival Abdullah Abdullah.
The joint statement says: “Welcomed the conclusion of the May 17 political agreement to form an inclusive Afghan government and to create a High Council for National Reconciliation, both of which should help move the peace process forward.”
The three envoys also urged the need to start intra-Afghan negotiations to discuss a comprehensive ceasefire and a political roadmap for Afghanistan’s future.
On the ceasefire, the statement said: “Welcomed the historic Eid ceasefire and the decision by Afghan leadership this week to expedite the release of Taliban prisoners, including the more than 900 prisoners released since that decision was taken, and urged the continued release of prisoners by both the Afghan Government and the Taliban consistent with the US -Taliban agreement of February 29." 
“Encouraged the continuation of the Eid ceasefire," the statement noted, "the necessity of Afghanistan not returning to pre-ceasefire levels of violence and noted the urgency of eliminating civilian casualties in order to create an environment conducive for peace and delivery of essential life-saving services to fight the COVID-19 pandemic…”
The joint statement also “took note of the US-Afghanistan Joint Declaration and the US-Taliban agreement of February 29 and affirmed Taliban and Islamic Republic of Afghanistan commitments to prevent any international terrorist groups or individuals, including al-Qaeda and (Daesh), from using Afghan soil; to this end, the sacrifices of the Afghan National Security Forces and its international partners are greatly appreciated.” 
“Consistent with the needs of our citizens, participants further agreed that the COVID-19 pandemic underscores the need to: strengthen cooperation to respond to public health crises, maintain flows of essential goods and services across borders, including critical medical supplies and foodstuffs, and respond to economic shocks,” the joint statement said.
Through the trilateral format, the participants intend to deepen cooperation through the following priority areas: 
"Developing security cooperation and intensifying joint efforts to combat cross-border threats along the frontier between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan, and to address issues such as terrorism, drug and precursor trafficking, smuggling, illegal migration, human trafficking, and wildlife trafficking throughout the region."
"Improving rail connectivity, including increasing the volume of freight transit traffic between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan and beyond, with a view to the uninterrupted delivery of food, essential goods, medications, especially in the context of the coronavirus pandemic, and improving regional transit integration." 
"Promoting trade between Afghanistan and Uzbekistan by reviewing and improving legal frameworks, policy reforms, sharing of information, use of appropriate technology, risk management, investment in infrastructure and human resources and removing constraints and bottlenecks, including through the development of the Free Economic Zone at the Termez border crossing."
"Discussing the construction of railways linking Uzbekistan with ports in Pakistan and beyond, in particular, discussion of the feasibility of construction of railways along the Mazar-e-Sharif-Herat-Bahramcha and Mazar-e-Sharif-Kabul-Torkham routes."
Mitigating the consequences of COVID-19 on food security;  
The meeting also addressed supporting regional energy projects such as CASA -1000 (the Central Asia South Asia Electricity Transmission and Trade Project), Central Asia Regional Electricity Market (CAREM), multi-lateral development bank electricity transmission projects, the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) Pipeline, and the construction of the 500 kilovolt Surkhan-Puli-Khumri(Khoja-Alvan) power transmission line.  
The statement mentioned:

 "Expanding opportunities for people-to-people exchanges and joint training, including at the Afghan Training Center in Termez."  
"Increasing humanitarian engagement between our peoples, including through coordination to confront the current pandemic, future public health crises, and natural disasters." 
"Promoting women’s equality and economic empowerment so that women can serve as drivers of the response to and recovery from the impacts COVID-19." 

"Establishing a working group to implement the decisions made under this trilateral."  

источник › https://tolonews.com

2020-05-28 › US-Afghanistan-Uzbekistan Trilateral Tests Out New Format for Engagement

The new trilateral fits into existing efforts to increase regional cooperation and integrate Afghanistan’s into Central Asian thinking.

This week representatives of the United States, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan met for a (virtual) trilateral, which highlighted ongoing cooperation between the three states as Washington experiments with new formats for engagement.

On May 27, an inaugural United States-Afghanistan-Uzbekistan trilateral meeting was held between U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale, Afghan Foreign Minister Mohammed Haneef Atmar and Uzbekistan Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov. Held via videoconference, the discussion touched a wide range of issues from regional security to combatting COVID-19. 

A joint statement released after the meeting identified a litany of priority areas for deepening cooperation, focusing on evergreen elements — such as connectivity, trade, and regional energy projects – and novel issues such as the global pandemic and its consequences. The participants, per the statement, committed to increasing cooperation and “called on countries of the region and the broader international community, to promote the Afghanistan peace process and to support the goal of a durable political settlement preserving the gains of the past 18 years to end the war in that country.” 

In a call with journalists on May 28, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Central Asia Jonathan Henick reiterated the points laid out in the joint statement, calling the trilateral “an opportunity to address our countries’ shared interests in partnership, peace, security and prosperity in Central Asia and Afghanistan.”

Henick stressed that the trilateral effort is designed to augment the United States’ other diplomatic initiatives. “We remain totally committed to the C5+1 platform,” Henick said, referencing the main vehicle for U.S. multilateral diplomacy with the countries of Central Asia. The C5+1 dialogue platform came into being in November 2015 and has broadly been viewed as a successful mechanism for bringing together the five states of Central Asia with the United States. The C5+1 met most recently in early February in Tashkent.

“We are experimenting with different platforms with a view toward advancing our shared objectives,” Henick said, underscoring the functional reality that “When you have six countries sitting around the table, discussion naturally gravitates to a certain level. When you reduce the number of countries around the table to three countries you can focus a little more specifically on issues that relate to bilateral issues between two of those countries.”

As for next steps, Henick said that working groups will need to be formed to follow up on specifical technical areas agreed upon and outlined in the joint statement. He said the State Department anticipates the trilateral will become a recurring format to be revisited in the future.

Henick stated that the United States is exploring the possibility of similar trilateral meetings with other countries — namely Tajikistan and Turkmenistan — which share long borders and serious interests in Afghanistan and regional security. 
“There are similar technical issues on the other borders, with Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. We are considering this format as a model for discussion with those countries as well,” Henick said.

Henick noted that the impetus for the trilateral came not just from Washington; the implication being that for a U.S.-Afghanistan-Tajikistan trilateral to come to fruition, Dushanbe and Kabul would have to want it too, but Washington is engaging its counterparts on the possibilities.

It’s not a surprise that the first regional version of such a trilateral meeting involved Uzbekistan.

Over the last few years, specifically since the late 2016 rise of power of Shavkat Mirziyoyev in Uzbekistan, there has been a growing effort on the part of Tashkent to actively engage with and about Afghanistan. This engagement has been broad, encompassing trade, transport, and connectivity issues — as demonstrated in concrete efforts to improve rail connectivity between the two countries — as well as diplomatic efforts to support and bolster the peace process

Uzbekistan’s efforts with regard to Afghanistan stem in large part from Miriziyoyev’s larger vision for the country as a leader in the region. Engaging Afghanistan services several levels of interests for Tashkent from diversifying Uzbekistan’s trade routes, which supports Mirziyoyev’s economic initiatives to promoting regional cooperation, to boosting relations with Washington, which clearly appreciates an active partner in the region. If an unstable, at-war Afghanistan is a security and economic risk to Uzbekistan, it follows that a peaceful, stable Afghanistan could be of great benefit.
Staff Author

Catherine Putz

Catherine Putz is managing editor of The Diplomat. She tweets @LadyPutz.

источник › https://thediplomat.com