US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad, while speaking at a virtual event organized by the US Institute of Peace, said that the intra-Afghan talks have never been so close.
He was joined by the Afghan ambassador to the US, Roya Rahmani, Uzbekistan’s ambassador to the US, Javlon Vakhabov, and Kazakhstan's ambassador to the US, Erzhan Kazykhanov.
Khalilzad said this is a defining moment for peace in Afghanistan.
“This is an important moment for Afghanistan and for the region--perhaps a defining moment,” he said.
He also said that the war has left huge burdens on the US and Afghanistan as well as the world community.
Khalilzad said that casualties among the Afghan military personnel and civilians have been reduced this year compared to last year.
On ties between Afghanistan and Central Asia, he said:
“We favor an ever-stronger relationship between C5 and Afghanistan…we think that’s an important format, and increased cooperation and integration of Afghanistan...we believe is an important objective.”
"We believe that [Central Asian] countries have an important role to play in encouraging the Afghan sides--the government, and the Taliban--to overcome the challenges that remain," Khalilzad said.
“We are committed to doing our part in achieving both objectives: the objective of peace and the objective of regional development and cooperation, said Khalilzad.
Khalilzad said that under the US-Taliban peace agreement which was signed in Doha on February 29, the US is committed to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan, however he reiterated that any troop withdrawal will be conditions-based.
“A strong and peaceful Afghanistan as a good neighbor of Central Asia will have a strong, positive impact on our region, said Erzhan Kazykhanov, ambassador of Kazakhstan to the US.
“We believe that Central Asian countries can play a pivotal role in providing a basis for the intra-Afghan talks," said Amb. Kazykhanov.
Kazykhanov also said: it is our principle position that Afghanistan should be viewed not as a threat, but as an important and high potential partner.
“The prospects of sustainable development in Central Asia are inextricably linked with the achievement of peace in neighboring Afghanistan,” said Javlon Vakhabov, Uzbekistan’s Ambassador to the US.
“We are firm believers that intra-Afghan talks should reflect the best interests of all Afghan people, says Uzbekistan to the US,” said Amb. Vakhabov
“In order to achieve sustainable and long term peace in Afghanistan, we deem it necessary to hold on to key principles... [like] abstention from violence, comprehensive ceasefire, readiness to dialogue and compromises,” added Javlon Vakhabov.
The Afghan ambassador to the US, Roya Rahmani, also addressed the session where she called on the regional countries and the international community to help Afghanistan in its efforts for peace.
She also highlighted the importance of Afghanistan’s bilateral relations with Central Asia.
On Afghanistan-Central Asia integration, Rahmani said: In order to get up to speed, our countries need to harmonize regulation and remove barriers for trade and investment, so that investors can look at the region collectively.
“The Afghan people need their Central Asian neighbors to support the Afghan peace process with their consensus and their commitment to a stable, peaceful and free Afghanistan,” said Rahmani.