United Nations: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed direct talks held between the Afghan government and Taliban representatives in Pakistan.
The first-ever formal talks for peace between the Afghan government delegation and representatives of the Taliban were held in Pakistan capital Islamabad on late Tuesday.
Ban on Wednesday reiterated his support for an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.
He also expressed his appreciation for the commitment of the parties and the constructive role of the host, Pakistan, Xinhua reported, citing a statement released by Ban’s spokesperson.
Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani has said that the preliminary peace talks would include three major parts — changing the initial peace talks process to a continued course, trust building and preparing a list of the most important demands in the agenda for peace talks.
“The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan while welcoming beginning the formal talks as the first step towards achieving peace is hopeful that the process could facilitate the way for achieving lasting and honourable peace in the country,” said a Afghan foreign ministry statement.
Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran have pledged to increase cooperation and information-sharing for effectively combating the trafficking of Afghan opiates.
War-shattered Afghanistan remains the world’s largest producer of opium, though the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime noted in its latest survey the opium cultivation decreased by 20 percent in 2018 due to a severe drought and reduced prices.
The illegal opiates are largely smuggled to international markets through Pakistan and Iran.
Need for more initiatives
Afghan, Pakistan and Iranian counternarcotics officials concluded their two-day UNODC-facilitated interaction Wednesday in Islamabad, where delegates underscored the need for more efforts against the massive flow of illicit drugs.
Participants at the “Triangular Initiative” meeting called for timely sharing of information and conducting simultaneously interdiction operations along their shared largely porous borders.
The forum was established in 2007 with a mission to promote regional cooperation to reduce the poppy cultivation, trafficking, and consumption of drugs in the region and beyond.
Officials acknowledged that despite Afghanistan’s political tensions with Pakistan and Iran anti-drugs cooperation largely continues.
Cesar Guedes, UNODC representative in Pakistan, noted the three countries attended the Islamabad meeting with “a revived attitude and role”, raising prospects for more effective counternarcotics efforts in 2019.
“More needs to be done because the level of [Afghan opium] production has also increased. They need really to coordinate closer in their joint efforts,” he told VOA
Guedes also called for increased international assistance, saying Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran alone cannot curb the menace of drugs.
“This has to be done in the framework of shared responsibility. All the countries, producers, consumers and transit need to join the effort,” he said.
Despite many challenges facing the government, the head of the Afghan delegation said authorities have taken significant steps to eradicate drug trafficking.
Director General for Policy Planing at the Afghan Ministry of Narcotics, Mohammad Osman Frotan, said 89 percent of poppy cultivation this year has taken place in the Afghan provinces most hit by insurgent activities. He said counternarcotics authorities during 2018 have seized more than 433 tons of different types of drugs, and arrested and prosecuted almost 4,000 suspects.
The United States has spent more than $8 billion in the past 17 years to assist Afghanistan in eradication efforts. But the effort has failed to stop opium production, which increased to record highs and stood at an estimated 9,000 tons in 2017. Critics blamed insecurity, rampant corruption and patronage by influential Afghans for the unprecedented growth. (VOA)