WASHINGTON: At the inaugural meeting of the trilateral forum, the United States, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan reviewed projects that could bring prosperity to the entire region by linking South and Central Asia, said a joint statement issued on Thursday.
Projects discussed at a trilateral meeting on Wednesday included building a railroad line between Central Asia and Pakistan and a gas pipeline bound for India via Pakistan. All such relations pass through Afghanistan and Pakistan and can only be established if there is peace in Afghanistan and between the two neighbors.
As a first step towards regional prosperity, the three governments “are pushing for the continued ceasefire of Eid al-Fitr and noted the need for Afghanistan not to return to pre-ceasefire violence”.
US Deputy Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale heads the inauguration session via teleconference video when the coronavirus pandemic prevented physical encounters. Afghan Foreign Minister Mohammed Haneef Atmar, and Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov represented their government.
Participants discussed proposals for the construction of a railroad linking Uzbekistan with ports in Pakistan and its surroundings, especially along the Mazar-i-Sharif-Herat-Bahramcha and Mazar-i-Sharif-Kabul-Torkham routes.
They also reviewed the proposed 1,814 km Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline. The project began in 1995, when Turkmenistan and Pakistan signed a memorandum of understanding to bring natural gas from fields in Turkmenistan to South Asia. The situation in Afghanistan, however, stopped the project.
The official delegation from Uzbekistan, led by Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov, visited Pakistan in November 2018. In discussions with Pakistani officials, Mr Kamilov proposed building a railroad connection between the two countries that will pass through Afghanistan.
Proposals discussed at various international forums have explored various routes to connect the ports of Pakistan with Central Asia. These include: Route 1,658km Kushka (Turkmenistan) -Turghundi (Afghanistan) -Herat-Kandahar-Chaman and Karachi; route 1,968 km Termez (Uzbekistan) -Kabul-Kandahar-Chaman-Karachi; Termez-Kabul-Peshawar-Karachi port route, 2,318 km; route Almaty (Kazakhstan) 3,517km -Torogart (China) -Khunjerab-Gilgit-Rawalpindi-Karachi; route Ashgabat (Turkmenistan) -Bandjigiran 2,575 km (Iran) -Zahedan-Taftan-Quetta-Karachi and route 3,600km Baku (Azerbaijan) -Astara (Iran) -Zahedan-Taftan.
The trilateral meeting also reviewed proposals to reduce the consequences of Covid-19 on food security in the South and Central Asia region.
Participants called on countries in the region to promote the Afghanistan peace process and to “support the goal of a durable political settlement that maintains the benefits of the past 18 years to end the war in that country,” the joint statement said.
They welcomed the conclusion of a May 17 political agreement to form an inclusive Afghan government and to form a High Council for National Reconciliation, with the hope that both will advance the peace process.
The participants also stressed “the urgency of starting intra-Afghan negotiations to discuss a comprehensive ceasefire and political road map for the future of Afghanistan”, the statement added.
Published in Dawn, May 29, 2020
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