Uzbekistan Offers to Mediate Afghanistan-Taliban Peace Talks
After Afghan President Ashraf Ghani unveiled a plan for peace talks with the Taliban, Uzbekistan, on 27 March, offered to host peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, a move that could make Tashkent a player in settling the decades-long conflict in the neighbouring country.
The former Soviet republic is seeking to raise its international profile as part of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev's campaign to open up the nation of 32 million and attract foreign investment after decades of isolation and economic stagnation.
At a conference in Tashkent attended by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev said that Uzbekistan was ready to create the conditions required for peace talks.
European Union foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini and a number of foreign minister including those of Russia, China and Turkey, also attended the Tashkent conference, but there were no Taliban representatives.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Unveils Plan for Peace
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani unveiled a plan to open peace talks with the Taliban, on 28 February, including eventually recognising them as a political party, just days after the militants called for direct negotiations with the US.
The apparent openness by both sides to some form of negotiations came as civilian casualties have soared in recent months, with the Taliban increasingly targeting towns and cities in response to a new and more aggressive US military policy ordered by President Donald Trump.
Peace Talk Mediation: A New Hope for Uzbekistan in Asia
Shavkat Mirziyoyev took over the predominantly Muslim Uzbekistan after the death in 2016 of authoritarian President Islam Karimov, who had run the country since the Soviet era.
Tashkent's ties with the West were strained under Karimov who was often criticised over his government's human rights abuses.
However, Mirziyoyev has promised to liberalise the country and has launched a diplomatic campaign to bring in foreign investment and boost trade.
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