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Uzbekistan 'Fully Ready' To Host Afghan Peace Talks

FILE: Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev with is Afghan counterpart Ashraf Ghani in March.
FILE: Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev with is Afghan counterpart Ashraf Ghani in March.

Uzbekistan has emphasized its readiness to host direct peace talks between the government of neighboring Afghanistan and the Taliban, after both sides announced cease-fires for the Eid al-Fitr holiday.

"The Foreign Ministry confirms its full readiness to create, at any stage of the peace process, all the necessary conditions for setting up direct talks between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban movement on Uzbekistan's territory," it said in a statement on June 18.

The Taliban announced a three-day cease-fire that ended on June 17, except against foreign forces. That overlapped with an Afghan government truce set to run until June 20.

The Uzbek statement expressed hope that the truces, which coincided with the holiday ending the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, is “extended indefinitely."

The former Soviet republic is seeking to raise its international profile as part of President Shavkat Mirziyoev’s campaign to open up the nation of 32 million after decades of isolation.

Mirziyoev has taken steps to improve Uzbekistan's ties with its neighbors since he became president after authoritarian President Islam Karimov's death was announced in September 2016.

In March, Tashkent hosted an international peace conference on Afghanistan during which the Uzbek leader offered to host peace negotiations between the Kabul government and the Taliban, who did not attend the gathering.

Uzbekistan’s Foreign Ministry said it had “established appropriate contacts and held working meetings with high-ranking representatives of the Taliban.”

“The prospects for dialogue and interaction for establishing long-term peace and stability in Afghanistan and its economic development” were discussed during these meetings, it added.

With reporting by Reuters