The text of the following statement was released by the governments of the United States of America, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, and the Republic of Uzbekistan on the occasion of the inaugural U.S. – Afghanistan – Uzbekistan Trilateral Meeting.
Representatives of the governments of the United States of America, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, and the Republic of Uzbekistan convened via video teleconference May 27 for the inaugural United States – Afghanistan – Uzbekistan Trilateral meeting. The meeting was co-chaired by American Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale, Afghan Foreign Minister Mohammed Haneef Atmar, and Uzbekistan Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov.
Participants reaffirmed the importance of trilateral discussions to address mutual issues of concern including political, security, economic, and human development matters. To this end, participants:
- Committed to greater cooperation among themselves, and called on countries of the region and the broader international community, to promote the Afghanistan peace process and to support the goal of a durable political settlement preserving the gains of the past 18 years to end the war in that country;
- Welcomed the conclusion of the May 17 political agreement to form an inclusive Afghan government and to create a High Council for National Reconciliation, both of which should help move the peace process forward;
- Affirmed the urgency of starting intra-Afghan negotiations to discuss a comprehensive ceasefire and a political roadmap for Afghanistan’s future;
- Welcomed the historic Eid ceasefire and the decision by Afghan leadership this week to expedite the release of Taliban prisoners, including the more than 900 prisoners released since that decision was taken, and urged the continued release of prisoners by both the Afghan Government and the Taliban consistent with the U.S.-Taliban agreement of February 29;
- Encouraged the continuation of the Eid ceasefire; noted the necessity of Afghanistan not returning to pre-ceasefire levels of violence; and noted the urgency of eliminating civilian casualties in order to create an environment conducive for peace and delivery of essential life-saving services to fight the COVID-19 pandemic; and
- Took note of the U.S.-Afghanistan Joint Declaration and the U.S.-Taliban agreement of February 29 and affirmed Taliban and Islamic Republic of Afghanistan commitments to prevent any international terrorist groups or individuals, including al-Qa’ida and ISIS, from using Afghan soil; to this end, the sacrifices of the Afghan National Security Forces and its international partners are greatly appreciated.
Consistent with the needs of our citizens, participants further agreed that the COVID-19 pandemic underscores the need to: strengthen cooperation to respond to public health crises; maintain flows of essential goods and services across borders, including critical medical supplies and foodstuffs; and respond to economic shocks.
Through the trilateral format, the participants intend to deepen cooperation through the following priority areas:
- Developing security cooperation and intensifying joint efforts to combat cross-border threats along the frontier between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan, and to address issues such as terrorism, drug and precursor trafficking, smuggling, illegal migration, human trafficking, and wildlife trafficking throughout the region;
- Improving rail connectivity, including increasing the volume of freight transit traffic between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan and beyond, with a view to the uninterrupted delivery of food, essential goods, medications, especially in the context of the coronavirus pandemic, and improving regional transit integration.
- Promoting trade between Afghanistan and Uzbekistan by reviewing and improving legal frameworks, policy reforms, sharing of information, use of appropriate technology, risk management, investment in infrastructure and human resources and removing constraints and bottlenecks, including through the development of the Free Economic Zone at the Termez border crossing;
- Discussing the construction of railways linking Uzbekistan with ports in Pakistan and beyond, in particular, discussion of the feasibility of construction of railways along the Mazar-e-Sharif-Herat-Bahramcha and Mazar-e-Sharif-Kabul-Torkham routes;
- Mitigating the consequences of COVID-19 on food security;
- Supporting regional energy projects such as CASA-1000 (the Central Asia South Asia Electricity Transmission and Trade Project), Central Asia Regional Electricity Market (CAREM), multi-lateral development bank electricity transmission projects, the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) Pipeline, and the construction of the 500 kilovolt Surkhan-Puli-Khumri (Khoja-Alvan) power transmission line;
- Expanding opportunities for people-to-people exchanges and joint training, including at the Afghan Training Center in Termez;
- Increasing humanitarian engagement between our peoples, including through coordination to confront the current pandemic, future public health crises, and natural disasters;
- Promoting women’s equality and economic empowerment so that women can serve as drivers of the response to and recovery from the impacts COVID-19; and
- Establishing a working group to implement the decisions made under this trilateral.
The participants look forward to continuing and expanding these discussions in person, as soon as public health conditions permit.