DUSHANBE -- Regional support for the Afghan peace process was on the agenda as a top US negotiator journeyed to Tajikistan this week.
Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad led a US delegation to Dushanbe Monday-Wednesday (May 3-5) for talks on various issues, according to a statement from the US embassy.
Khalilzad conferred with Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, Foreign Minister Sirojiddin Muhriddin, and State Committee for National Security (GKNB) Chairman Saimumin Yatimov, among other officials.
Khalilzad thanked Tajik officials for backing the Afghan peace process.
"We continue our diplomatic support for the peace process and urge all regional and international stakeholders to remain focused on helping Afghans secure a political settlement and a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire," said Khalilzad.
Progress on Afghan peace will accelerate economic development in nearby countries, said Khalilzad, who noted, "A lasting peace in Afghanistan will promote economic growth in Central Asia, as opportunities for trade and economic integration increase. The United States continues to provide substantial security and development assistance to Afghanistan and Tajikistan to achieve this outcome, and we share a common goal."
Affirmation of regional support for Afghanistan
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the US State Department released a statement summarising an April 23 C5+1 Virtual Ministerial.
"C5+1 is a format for dialogue and a platform for joint efforts to address common challenges faced by the United States and the five Central Asian states," according to the State Department.
The April 23 online session included US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and all five Central Asian foreign ministers. They discussed various regional issues and devoted considerable time to Afghanistan.
The six diplomats "discussed the situation in Afghanistan and the continuing need for all countries in the region and the broader international community to support the Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace negotiations for ... [an] Afghanistan that is free of terrorism and at peace with itself and its neighbors", said the statement.
They urged "the Taliban not to pursue a Spring offensive, so as to avoid further casualties and to create an environment conducive to reaching a negotiated political settlement" and "welcomed the Central Asian countries' important contributions to regional stability and Afghanistan".
In addition, they called "for upholding human rights, especially women's rights" and "the continued development of security cooperation between the United States and the countries of Central Asia as a means of ... countering cross-border threats emanating from Afghanistan".
The conferees also supported "the extension of transportation networks connecting Central Asia to South Asia via Afghanistan".