Uzbekistan starts direct negotiations with Taliban

Uzbek Foreign Ministry says country has contacted Taliban in order to organize direct negotiations with Afghanistan
TASHKENT, Uzbekistan: Uzbekistan announced on Tuesday that the country has made direct contact with the Taliban in order to organize the group’s negotiations with Afghanistan.
The Uzbek Foreign Ministry said in a statement that in order to realize the common position of the participants of Afghanistan Conference which was held in capital Tashkent in March, Uzbekistan has made “constructive” conversations with senior members of the Taliban.
In these conversations, Uzbek officials discussed with Taliban the provision of long-term peace and stability in Afghanistan, dialogue for economic development of Afghanistan, and the future of mutual cooperation, the Foreign Ministry said.
In a declaration issued at the end of the conference, the sides “strongly” supported Afghan government’s offer to launch direct talks with the Taliban without any preconditions.
The declaration was adopted by Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, China, France, Germany, India, Iran, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, England, the U.S., European Union and EU officials in the conference.
Also on Tuesday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani offered to extend a cease-fire with the Taliban, which ended last week, to a year.
“I am ready to sit with them [Taliban leadership] in the desert, in the mountains, in the mosque…wherever they want,” he said.
Earlier, the Taliban announced a three-day truce with the government for the Muslim festival of Eid-ul-Fitr.
In February, Ghani offered an olive branch to the Taliban, who have waged a brutal insurgency in the country in the past 17 years.
Ghani said a cease-fire will be enforced, a political framework will be established, and steps will be taken to free Taliban prisoners.–AA

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