Zalmay Khalilzad, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, is on a marathon tour of eight countries in search of new handles for the Afghan conundrum.
On Tuesday he met the deputy prime minister and foreign minister of Turkmenistan, Rashid Meredov, in Ashgabat.
The press release issued by the foreign office of Turkmenistan says, “In particular, it was stated that Neutral Turkmenistan, being an active participant in international formats for Afghanistan, for a number of years regularly takes steps to establish peace in Afghanistan. In this context, special attention was paid to the initiative of President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, about the readiness of our country to provide apolitical and diplomatic space to prepare for the establishment of a peace process in neighboring Afghanistan.”
This offer needs to be considered seriously for a number of reasons.
First, the inclusion of eight countries –Afghanistan, Pakistan, Russia, UAE, Qatar, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Belgium– in the itinerary is the tacit acknowledgement of the fact that unipolarity in international politics is not a fully functional model. In order to create consensus there is always the need to work together.
Together with this, we also comprehend that in a complex situation like Afghanistan, it is useful to create an incubator environment – a physical space where peace overtures can grow and mature without any interference.
Turkmenistan is one such place. We know from the inter-Tajik peace talks of 1997 that Turkmenistan is capable of providing the physical space and related facilities while ensuring that the peace process can take its course without any external intrusion or pressure.
Second, Turkmenistan enjoys the trust of all the parties in the Afghan equation. It is because, over the years, Turkmenistan has consistently exercised impartiality in every situation.
Third, Turkmenistan believes in a holistic concept – the component parts of economy and security cannot be treated in isolation. They are inseparable. Taking care of some aspects of economy or security while ignoring the others cannot lead to a satisfactory and long lasting solution.
Turkmenistan has demonstrated the adherence to this concept in practical terms. While repeatedly offering its physical space for the inter-Afghan dialogue, Turkmenistan has put into motion several processes for the economic uplift of Afghanistan – TAPI gas pipeline project,TAP electricity transmission network, Lapis Lazuli Corridor, TAT railway line, TAP fiber optic link, provision of energy and goods to Afghanistan at subsidized rated, etc.
Fourth, the UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy in Central Asia (UNRCCA) is based in Ashgabat. This unique outpost of the UN has the capacity and resources to provide the technical and legal support if the inter-Afghan dialogue takes place in Turkmenistan.
Peace in Afghanistan will benefit everyone. In fact, it will unclog the development channels in the entire region. The world needs to support the offer of Turkmenistan for the inter-Afghan dialogue. ///nCa, 12 December 2018