TASHKENT: Shavkat Mirziyoyev, President of the Republic of Uzbekistan, today called on the United Nations General Assembly to create a Permanent UN Committee on Afghanistan to coordinate peace efforts and to facilitate a lasting political settlement in the country.
In a precedent-setting move, President Mirziyoyev delivered his address to the General Assembly’s opening session in Uzbek, the first time Uzbekistan’s national language has been used in the UN.
In his address, the President outlined the steps his nation has taken to try to promote peace in Afghanistan, starting with a major international forum held in Tashkent in March 2018. During that conference, President Mirziyoyev set a settlement in Afghanistan as a top priority for his administration, terming it “the linchpin of stability and prosperity of the entire greater region of Central and South Asia.”
Since then, Uzbekistan has invested heavily in rail and transport infrastructure in Afghanistan, as well as in the energy sector and in education.
The President and his envoys have held extensive talks with all political parties and movements within Afghanistan, including the Taliban, discussions which led to the recent start of direct negotiations between the Afghanistan government leadership and the Taliban in Doha.
In today’s address, delivered by video call, President Mirziyoyev said:
“We consider Afghanistan as unalienable part of Central Asia. The high-level Tashkent conference on Afghanistan in March 2018 became a new stage to consolidate international efforts to solve the Afghan problem.
“We fully support the intra-Afghan peace talks which started this September in Doha.
We hope these negotiations will help in establishing peace and stability in the much suffering land of Afghanistan.
“In order to facilitate the involvement of Afghanistan in regional economic integration we have started the implementation of large infrastructure projects such as building the ‘Surkhan-Puli-Khumri’ power transmission line, and the railway network from Mazari-Sharif to the ports of the Indian Ocean.
“We believe that ensuring peace and stability in Afghanistan will always remain at the centre of the UN’s attention.
“The hopes and aspirations of the Afghan people can only be realised if we work together and in close cooperation. We need to work based on the principle, from instability and destruction to peace and creation.
“Therefore, we need to establish at the UN a Permanent Committee that will listen to the hopes and aspirations of the Afghan people. The main aim of the committee should be to assist in the economic and social development of Afghanistan.”
He noted that there is still no clear international strategy for dealing with the aftermath of four decades of strife within the country and that he was proposing a “new format” through which a consensus in support of the peace process could be achieved.
Diplomats in the region fear that once NATO troops leave, international interest in Afghanistan will fade. An authoritative international structure is needed to ensure Afghanistan is not now overlooked.
Experts believe a UN Permanent Committee could:
Coordinate international efforts to assist the peace process in Afghanistan and its economic recovery.
Keep the Afghanistan issue as a priority topic within the UN, ensuring that international assistance is systematic and efficient.
Act as a platform to discuss relevant issues among global powers and regional states to avoid geopolitical rivalry in Afghanistan and find common interests.
Serve as a channel for information exchange on terrorism and security threats.
Mobilise international efforts to implement infrastructure and socio-economic development projects in Afghanistan, strengthening its connectivity with other states in the region
President Mirziyoyev also proposed convening an International Conference dedicated to the 10th anniversary of the Joint Plan of Action of the Central Asian Countries on the Implementation of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. He suggested Tashkent as the site for the conference.
The President touched on several other subjects from his list of priorities. Issues of particular relevance to the Central Asia region included the future of the Aral Sea. He called for a special resolution of the UN General Assembly on declaring the Aral Sea area a zone of environmental innovation and technologies.
He also noted plans for a major UNESCO-backed forum in Khiva, Uzbekistan, on the theme “Central Asia at the Crossroads of World Civilizations”. The international forum is scheduled for 2021 but dates have not yet been fixed.
Focusing on weaknesses in transport links between Central Asia and Europe, President Mirziyoyev called for establishment under the auspices of the United Nations of a Regional Centre for the Development of Transport and Communications Connectivity.
He called on the world community to work more closely together to strengthen cooperation in the development of drugs and vaccines against the Covid-19 virus. He advocated an international code of voluntary commitments by states during the pandemic, supporting international initiatives for widespread access to the results of the development of vaccines against the coronavirus.
He highlighted the significance of a current initiative to adopt a UN Convention on the Rights of Youth. More generally, he backed the adoption of a special UN General Assembly resolution on enhancing the role of parliaments in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and ensuring human rights.
The President also described the elimination of poverty across the world as a key issue for the UN and suggested it as the main topic for a future UNGA session and proposed holding a global summit on the topic.
Regarding food security, President Mirziyoyev conveyed Uzbekistan’s support for UN Secretary General António Guterres’ proposal to convene a Summit on Food Systems in 2021.