Talks in Uzbekistan over the conflict in Afghanistan led to a joint declaration this week marking the signatories' support for direct negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban*. The conference was attended by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon, and senior diplomatic officials from the EU, China, Iran, India, Turkey, Pakistan the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
Russian officials praised the US's decision to support the declaration on peace talks, promising to assist Kabul in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table. Russian Foreign Ministry Second Asian department director Zamir Kabulov emphasized that Russia was ready to serve as a venue for such negotiations.
"Achieving a lasting peace in Afghanistan depends on internal political process. However, a great deal also depends on the favorable interaction of countries in the region and outside of it," the lawmaker noted.
"The situation will remain hopeless if countries which can influence this process are plunged into contradictions and conflicts between themselves. The influential powers of Iran and Saudi Arabia are on the verge of a military confrontation. India and Pakistan have quite tense relations; in such conditions, we cannot hope that this conference will lead to peace for Afghanistan," he added.
According to Mahdawi, the United States has an unreasonable fixation on being the key decision-maker in the peace process. "The US is convinced that given their military losses and the billions and billions in spending on the war, they have earned the right to play first fiddle in resolving the Afghan issue. But the Afghan crisis cannot be solved by the efforts of one country. Without cooperation with the countries of the region, peace in Afghanistan cannot be secured."
Ultimately, Mahdawi believes that only joint efforts, including positive interaction between Russia and the US, will lead to lasting peace.
"The path to resolving the problem lies in having countries from the region, as well outside it, led by Russia and the United States, interacting with each other. If the US is able to conduct an effective and favorable policy toward Russia on the Afghan issue, and if there is cooperation between India and Pakistan, and Iran and Saudi Arabia, peace can be achieved. Without such cooperation, no country alone can ensure peace," Mahdawi concluded.
The situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated sharply in recent months, with the Taliban carrying out offensives on major cities. The rise of other extremist groups, including Daesh (ISIS)* have further destabilized the country. The United States, its allies, and the Kabul government have been fighting a war with the Taliban in Afghanistan since 2001. Before that, the country faced nearly two decades of civil war, remaining divided into several warlord-controlled regions throughout much of the 1990s.
* Terrorist groups banned in Russia.