Kyrgyzstan is not best place for Afghan talks: experts

Kyrgyzstan is not best place for Afghan talks: experts

Azerbaijan, Baku, Dec. 5 / Trend V. Zhavoronkova /

Kyrgyzstan is not the best venue for negotiations between radical groups in Afghanistan, experts say.

Kyrgyzstan probably is not the best choice of venue for the Afghan peace talks, European expert on Central Asia Bruce Pannier told Trend .

Kyrgyzstan proposed the OSCE countries to hold talks between Talibans and their opponents at., "Bishkek initiative" can be a permanent platform for the consolidation of the confronting forces in Afghanistan, solving the challenges to strengthen security and stability in Central Asia in accordance with the speech of Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Kadyrbek Sarbaev at a meeting of the OSCE foreign ministers in Athens.

The Bishkek initiative is being discussed amid intensification of radical groups in Afghanistan and increasing terrorist threat for Central Asian countries as heads of the Central Asian countries repeatedly stated.

Kyrgyzstan's geographical location is of course a good basis for such talks, believes Michael Laubsch, German Expert for Central Asia.

In favour of Bishkek as a venue would be that the country has been involved in the Afghan affairs for some time, certainly during Kyrgyzstan's years as an independent country, Pannier believes.

"Moreover, Kyrgyzstan's membership in a number of different regional security organizations and international efforts (OSCE, SCO, CSTO, CIS, Manas Transit Center) could make it an appropriate venue for intra-Afghan talks,"  member of the Open Society, Columbia University's Barnard College Political Science Department Associate Professor, Cooley, wrote Trend in an e-mail.

The Kyrgyz government, like the governments of other Central Asian states, expressed concern over events in Afghanistan and is doing everything possible to help establish peace in the country.

However, there are a number of reasons, according to which Kyrgyzstan is not the best choice for peace talks with radical groups in Afghanistan, the experts say.

According to Laubsch, at first, it has to be not Kyrgyzstan to propose such negotiations, but the organisations responsible for these issues.

"At first all 56 member states have to discuss the basis of such talks. Especially the question has to be answered, how the OSCE can start negotiations with criminal and Islamite groups, does this make sense," head of the German non-governmental organization ETG (Eurasian Transition Group Laubsch wrote Trend in an e-mail.

According to him, not Kyrgyzstan, but Kazakhstan as the upcoming chair of the OSCE should be in the role of proposing such talks.

If they, together with the OSCE "troika" and other institutions that deal with the afghan problem come to the conclusion that Bishkek might be the place for such talks, then it can be implemented, the expert said.

But throwing such an idea into the room without the direct involvement of the responsible OSCE bodies and partner organizations does not make much sense, Laubsch added.

The presence of the military contingent in Kyrgyzstan, anti-terrorist coalition is another argument.

The presence of NATO military facility at the Manas International Airport makes Bishkek an almost impossible choice for peace talks," Radio Liberty expert on Central Asia Pannier wrote Trend today in an e-mail. "I think that all the guarantees in the world would not convince Taliban representatives that they would not be arrested or killed if they went to Bishkek."

Moreover, the U.S. military are not enthusiastic about the initiative to hold talks with the Taliban in Bishkek.

It is hard to imagine the U.S. military personnel at Manas would be happy to have Taliban members nearby and if they flew to Manas as they almost surely would, they could not help but see the U.S. base, the expert believes.  

For both those two sides the thought of being so near "the enemy" would be too much for either to agree to Bishkek as a venue, Pannier said.  

According to him, the Afghan peace talks during the second half of the 1990s were never very productive and essentially it would be the same two parties meeting again - former Northern Allianc (United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan) representatives and Taliban.

There were Afghan peace talks held in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan in May 1999 and also a meeting of the so-called "six plus two" group held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan in July 1999 (Taliban representatives did attend), the expert said. Turkmenistan talked with all the Afghan parties and as a result never had much difficulty with any of the groups.

According to him, Uzbekistan took the opposite path and sided with the Northern Alliance.  

The Uzbek government was hostile toward the Taliban who in turn were hostile toward the Uzbek government, Pannier added.

The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and the Taliban were good friends, he said.  

According to experts, initiation of negotiations can be considered a positive trend.

"Talks between the Afghan factions would be welcome simply because it would demonstrate they can talk with each other instead of shooting at each other, the expert said.

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