June 19, 2018 / 7:54 AM / 2 months ago

Uzbekistan invites Afghan government, Taliban for peace talks

TASHKENT (Reuters) - Uzbekistan said it had invited the government of neighboring Afghanistan and the Taliban to take part in direct peace talks on its territory after both sides announced ceasefires over the Eid holiday.

The Taliban announced a surprise three-day ceasefire from last Friday, except against foreign forces. That overlapped with an Afghan government ceasefire announced to run until Wednesday.

“The Uzbek side hopes this ceasefire is extended indefinitely,” Uzbekistan’s foreign ministry said.

Uzbekistan stepped up its diplomatic engagement in regional affairs in March by holding an Afghan peace conference.

Although the Taliban did not attend that conference, Uzbekistan’s foreign ministry said it had established contacts and had meetings with senior Taliban members.

“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 late on Monday.

The former Soviet republic is seeking to raise its international profile as part of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s campaign to open up the nation of 32 million and attract foreign investment after decades of isolation and economic stagnation.

Reporting by Mukhammadsharif Mamatkulov; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Andrew Heavens

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