TASHKENT: Russia and six nations bordering Afghanistan have set up a club to discuss ways to achieve long-term peace in the war-torn nation, with diplomats at the inaugural meeting on Tuesday calling for a freeze on Afghan central bank assets to be lifted.
Special representatives from Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan convened in Tashkent and plan to meet regularly to discuss issues facing Afghanistan, Uzbekistan’s foreign ministry said.
The group urged Western nations to lift the freeze on the Afghan central bank’s assets, Uzbek special representative Ismatilla Ergashev said.
“The representatives of these countries emphasised that the return of the money of the Central Bank of Afghanistan should be used primarily to pay the salaries of… school teachers and doctors, and at the same time to support the part of the population which is in a difficult situation,” he told a briefing.
“They also emphasised that nearly 25 million people in Afghanistan are starving and deprived of food.”
According to Khaama Press, the meeting was held in the absence of the Taliban representatives in Tashkent. Besides, several neighbouring countries have officially handed over the Afghan Embassies to the Taliban diplomats, but the group is still not invited to such meetings on regional levels.
Bilal Karimi, deputy spokesman for the Islamic Emirate said it welcomes any meeting which benefits Afghanistan: “All meetings held for cooperation and assistance with Afghanistan in the field of humanitarian issues, and for strengthening the government, and in all other areas which are effective for the country”, Tolo news reported.
Afghanistan’s neighbouring countries have repeatedly called on the Islamic Emirate authorities to respect human rights, lift the restrictions on women and girls attending education, and form an all-inclusive government so that everyone can see them represented in the regime.
Walif Frozan — an international relations analyst says, “In such regional competition, Afghanistan is used as a strategic location and every country tries to take advantage of it for its side.”
The United States froze some $7 billion in central bank assets after the Afghan government was toppled by Taliban forces in 2021, with a further $2bn frozen in European banks.
Washington has said that some of the funds would go to a foundation to benefit ordinary Afghans.
The United Nations last month said 6m people in Afghanistan are at risk of famine and two-thirds of the population are facing severe hunger and are in urgent need of aid.
Published in Dawn, March 8th, 2023