A webinar on the Afghan Peace Process and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, co-organised by the Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI) and the Institute for Strategic and Regional Studies under the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan (ISRS), was held on 29 January 2021.
Opening remarks were delivered by Foreign Minister of Pakistan Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi and SCO Secretary-General Vladimir Norov.
The event was also attended by IPRI Acting President/Director Research Raashid Wali Janjua, Deputy Speaker of Afghanistan's House of Representatives Mirwais Yasini, Director of the Executive Committee of the SCO's Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) Jumakhon Giyosov, Pakistan's Ambassador to Uzbekistan Sayed Ali Asad Gillani, Deputy Chief of Mission of the Chinese Embassy in Pakistan Mme Pang Chunxue, ISRS Director Eldor Aripov, and member of the Afghan Negotiating Delegation for the Intra-Afghan Dialogue Mme Fawzia Koofi.
SCO Secretary-General Vladimir Norov pointed out that the SCO member states regarded an early settlement in Afghanistan as a vital factor in strengthening security and stability in the region as a whole.
He said the conflict in Afghanistan could only be settled by the Afghans themselves and under their guidance through a political dialogue and an inclusive peace process.
In this context, Vladimir Norov welcomed the intra-Afghan peace talks launched in Doha and expressed hope that their progress would have a positive effect on the development of multifaceted interaction between the SCO and Afghanistan.
He expressed appreciation for Pakistan's mediation in the Afghan peace process and also mentioned the positive role played by the Moscow format of consultations and the High-Level International Conference on Afghanistan, held in Tashkent on 26-27 March 2018, in providing political support for the launch of the intra-Afghan dialogue.
Vladimir Norov called on all interested states and international organisations to build up cooperation towards stabilisation and development in Afghanistan based on the central coordinating role of the UN.
He pointed out that there was an objective increase in the importance of the SCO's assistance to Afghanistan's rehabilitation amid the decreasing foreign military presence.
The SCO Secretary-General also outlined the priority areas of the organisation's interaction with Kabul within the framework of the Roadmap for Further Action of the SCO Afghanistan Contact Group, in particular, in the context of the outcome of the SCO Summit held in Moscow on 10 November 2020.
He reaffirmed the SCO's support for the efforts of the Afghan people and government against terrorism and drug-related crime.
Vladimir Norov noted that the return of Afghanistan to the path of peaceful development should be complemented with its gradual involvement in regional trade and economic cooperation.
In this context, he mentioned the importance of engaging Afghanistan in implementing high-quality railway and energy infrastructure projects aimed at strengthening regional connectivity between Central and South Asia and in the SCO space as a whole.
The SCO Secretary-General emphasised that the streamlining of trans-regional logistic processes would help boost multilateral trade and economic ties and also the revitalisation of Afghanistan's industries and agriculture.
In this connection, he mentioned the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev's initiative to draft and adopt an action plan aimed at promoting the socioeconomic rehabilitation of Afghanistan within the framework of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group.
Vladimir Norov noted the importance of humanitarian interaction between the SCO member states and Afghanistan amid the coronavirus pandemic, including support for and broader use of distance education programmes aimed at fostering the creative potential and business activity of young people. He added that the SCO SCOLAR Network youth platform was playing a useful role in this process.
He also said that the potential spheres of interaction would be discussed during preparations for the next meeting of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group to be held during Tajikistan's SCO Chairmanship.