Uzbekistan hoping to engage with IEA without alienating the West

Uzbekistan has emerged as a key interlocutor with the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), engaging with Kabul on a wide range of issues but without officially recognizing the new government.

In doing so, it has enabled Uzbekistan to explore new opportunities for economic cooperation with Afghanistan without upsetting the international community, VOA reported Friday.

Ismatulla Irgashev, special representative to Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, told VOA in an interview that his government is “working closely” with the IEA.

“We have long established solid contacts, talk regularly, [and] discuss cooperation,” he said.

Uzbekistan sees the IEA “as a reality that must be accepted,” he said.

“Imagine what happens if we don’t engage. … More conflict, another civil war, more blood, poverty, suffering, threats to the neighbors and the international community,” he stated.

Reflecting on President Mirziyoyev’s description of Afghanistan as an integral part of Central Asia, Irgashev said, “We see a common future with immense common interests, no matter who is in power there.”

Uzbekistan has meanwhile become a key hub for the delivery of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, a move acknowledged by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in March.

Mirziyoyev recently dispatched a delegation to Washington, urging more assistance to Afghanistan. Irgashev claimed Tashkent has persuaded the European Union to return diplomats to Kabul and hopes the US will ultimately take similar steps, VOA reported.

“The Taliban (IEA) don’t want to be isolated,” Irgashev said. “They want international recognition.”

Despite calling for greater engagement with the IEA, Irgashev said Tashkent is committed to moving ahead with formal recognition but only in tandem with the international community.

“We will not recognize them alone,” he said. “When it happens, we want a collective voice and stand.”