Turkmenistan as a mediator in the inter-Afghan negotiations

Turkmenistan as a mediator in the inter-Afghan negotiations

Events and news related to Afghanistan are always in the focus of world politics and media, which have been discussing various ways to resolve the Afghan problem for many years. Political and economic instability, the humanitarian situation in the country with a geostrategic position are important not only for itself, but also for the region and the whole world.

The media have repeatedly noted that the risks of spreading this instability threaten the neighboring Central Asian region, that Afghan refugees constitute one of the main groups of migrants to Europe, and the drugs production and trafficking have become a global challenge to humanity. At the recent Geneva Conference on Afghanistan, in which Turkmenistan also took part, UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) Deborah Lyons highlighted that the violence in Afghanistan is still at a high level, and thousands of the Afghans were forced to resettle inside the country and millions leave the country at all.

According to the World Drug Report published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the opium poppy plantations in Afghanistan decreased by 38% in 2019, but due to favorable weather conditions, the gross output remained at the level of 2018, having amounted to 6.4 thousand tons.

At the same time, over the past 19 years, Afghanistan has made some progress in the economic, political and social sectors and, as was emphasized at the Geneva meeting, it is important not only to preserve these achievements, but also to further promote them. According to the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative, “Afghanistan must move forward, not backward. The UN and international partners will support the Afghan people, fully aware of the challenges facing this country”.

The ongoing in the Qatar’s capital city, Doha, peace talks between the Afghan Government and the Taliban have an important role to play in international efforts to resolve the inter-Afghan conflict. The effectiveness of this process can be strengthened by other partners on additional negotiation venues.

At a meeting of CIS Security Council Secretaries in November, Deputy Prime Minister for security, defence and law enforcement agencies, Security Council Secretary of Turkmenistan Charymyrat Amanov stated that Ashgabat was ready to accept the next round of inter-Afghan negotiations on a peaceful settlement.

Guided by the principles of neutrality, Turkmenistan takes an active part in stabilizing the situation in Afghanistan and is ready to provide its political space for the next rounds of peace talks. The Rossiyskaya Gazeta wrote in this regard: “If the Afghans agree to this, then Ashgabat can become a real alternative to Doha”.

Indeed, Turkmenistan is Afghanistan’s closest neighbor and the country’s neutral status guarantees the provision of an optimal negotiation venue for all parties with their specific interests to find mutually acceptable solutions to contentious issues. Turkmenistan has already had experience in organizing inter-Afghan and inter-Tajik negotiations in the past, as well as in constructive partnership with both the Afghan Government and the Taliban.

The UN Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia is located in the capital city of the country, Ashgabat, whose activities in all key areas are constantly supported by the country’s leadership. Peacekeeping initiatives of Turkmenistan, which has always taken a proactive stance in addressing regional and global problems, are known far beyond the Central Asian region. It is enough to recall that it was on Turkmenistan’s initiative that the UN General Assembly adopted the Resolution on declaring 2021 the International Year of Peace and Trust, aimed at safeguarding peace and enhancing mutual trust among the international community.

With regard to Afghanistan, Turkmenistan adheres to a consistent and unchanging position, advocating an exclusively political and diplomatic solution to all problems, the stabilization of the internal political situation and the neighboring country’s economic recovery through its involvement in creative regional and global processes, as well as the provision of financial and humanitarian assistance to its population.

At an international forum earlier this year, held to celebrate the 25th anniversary of neutrality, Yasuko Oda, Director of the Regional Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, pointed out that from the first days of its independence Turkmenistan has received thousands of refugees from Afghanistan, not only ensuring the protection of these persons, but and providing them access to education, healthcare and agricultural lands for their decent life.

Many have been granted citizenship. At the same time, it was emphasized that this achievement should be highlighted as one of the best world practices.

Jointly with the neighboring country, Turkmenistan is carrying out such large infrastructure projects as the construction of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) transnational gas pipeline, the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan high-voltage power transmission and fiber-optic communication lines, and the Akina-Andkhoy railway.

During a recent telephone conversation, the leaders of the two countries discussed the progress of these large-scale projects, which are to have a beneficial effect on the economy of Afghanistan. It is expected that Afghanistan will make an average profit of over 1 billion US dollars just for the transit of gas. The required infrastructure facilities will be built along the energy transportation route, including factories, gas compressor stations and gas purification plants, which will create thousands of jobs for the Afghans.

As already reported, the Turkmen party plans to complete the construction of TAPI section inside our country this year, and next year launch a project in Afghanistan. Moreover, power transmission and fiber-optic communication lines are at the final stage of construction, which will subsequently connect the two neighboring countries to Pakistan. The parties to the conversation made a special emphasis on the role of the Lapis Lazuli transit and transport corridor, created as part of the Agreement signed between Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, which will contribute to increasing trade turnover between the countries of Central and South Asia and European states, having, thereby, given a new impetus to development of interregional trade and economic relations. Turkmenistan has been supplying the brotherly people of Afghanistan with electricity at a reduced price for decades.

Support is also provided in the construction of various social and cultural facilities in the cross-border regions of Afghanistan. The Turkmen party financed the construction and commissioning of a school and a maternity hospital, and next week it to mark the opening of a mosque built as a humanitarian aid from Turkmenistan to the Afghan people in the village of Akina, Andkhoy district, Faryab province.

Even in this difficult year for the world, humanitarian cargoes consisting of medicines and medical supplies, food, textiles and household products are regularly sent to the neighboring country. The new three-year Program for the humanitarian aid from Turkmenistan to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in 2020-2022 provides for the construction of a number of social facilities, the implementation of projects in the healthcare sector, cooperation in the field of education, etc.

The leadership of Afghanistan has repeatedly expressed deep appreciation to Turkmenistan for the firm and unwavering support for their country in the international political arena, as well as comprehensive assistance in the socio-economic sectors. The constructive contribution of Turkmenistan to the peaceful settlement of the situation in the neighboring country is recognized by all world leaders – from the UN Secretary General and heads of other international organizations to the heads of different state. All this allows regarding the Ashgabat venue as a real addition to the Geneva Conference on Afghanistan, and neutral Turkmenistan as an effective mediator in the inter-Afghan negotiations.

Ogulgozel REJEPOVA