by Farid Behbud
Kabul, March 30 (Xinhua) -- Uzbekistan's offer to host peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban outfit has been welcomed by experts here as a move towards bolstering regional cooperation towards ending the endemic conflict and achieving lasting peace in Afghanistan.
Delegations of 23 countries and organizations, including the European Union and the United Nations participated in a regional conference in Uzbekistan's capital city of Tashkent earlier this week to discuss possible solutions to the prolonged and devastating conflict in Afghanistan.
Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev during his speech at the conference said that his country was ready to create all necessary conditions to arrange for Uzbekistan to host direct peace talks between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban group.
"Delegates at the Tashkent peace conference supported Afghanistan's peace initiative and that is a step forward for reaching peace. The move could help Afghans reach a negotiated political settlement and I believe the move is welcomed by most Afghans," Amin Ahmadi, a political analyst, told Xinhua.
It is for the interest of countries in the region to take action and do their best to stop the conflicts in Afghanistan, the analyst said, warning the conflict could spread to neighboring countries and eventually destabilize the entire region.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani unveiled his latest peace strategy late last month, offering recognition of the Taliban as a political party and allowing them to open an office in Kabul, issue passports to their members and remove the names of senior commanders from UN blacklists.
"Uzbekistan is our neighbor and a good neighbor is better than a far cousin. It can play a vital role in helping Afghans to reach peace talks," the expert said.
"The international community, especially important organizations like the UN and EU's cooperation is vital for boosting the peace process," Nabi Sawary, a political science professor at the private Ibn-e-Sina University in Kabul, told Xinhua.
"Since regional powers, especially Afghanistan's immediate neighbors, have influence over the Taliban, they can convince the Taliban leaders to sit down with the government of Afghanistan to reach an agreement on ending the war in their country," the expert observed.
Sayyed Ehsan Tahiri, spokesperson for Afghanistan's High Peace Council, told local media recently that there will be more pressure after the Tashkent conference on the Taliban to accept the peace offer as there have been no more pretexts for them to continue the war.
Now, there is extensive support for the peace process after the consensus was reached at the Tashkent meeting, Tahiri maintained.
"I welcome this conference, which gives appropriate prominence to Afghanistan's neighbors and partners, as well as countries who have also supported the post-2001 political order and reconstruction effort," Tadamichi Yamamoto, UN special envoy and head of the UN mission in Afghanistan, told the participants at the conference on Tuesday.
The UN diplomat also stated that the five countries of Central Asia and Afghanistan are united by a shared history, culture and geography. They have an enormous potential for jointly tackling regional threats, increasing trade and connectivity.
"There is still much to be done. First, we must continue to build on the regional consensus for peace. This means two things. It means that those countries who have contacts with the Taliban should use those contacts to urge them to accept the Afghan government's peace offer."
"It also means that the countries of the region should acknowledge the Afghan-owned nature of the peace process and commit to accepting the agreement reached between the Taliban and the government," Tadamichi added.
Currently around 16,000 foreign troops remain in Afghanistan to train and assist local security forces in their fight against the insurgents.
The Taliban militants who have repeatedly rejected the Afghan government's offer for talks over the past decade have yet to respond to president Ghani's recent offer for peace-based dialogue.