Senior U.S. Diplomat Due In Uzbekistan For Talks, Afghan Conference

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A senior U.S. diplomat is due to arrive in Uzbekistan on March 25 for a three-day visit for talks with Uzbek leaders and to attend an international peace conference on Afghanistan.

Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon will attend the Tashkent conference on Afghanistan on March 26 and is also scheduled to meet with Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev and Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdulaziz Kamilov during his trip.

The Tashkent conference is set to start on March 26, although the foreign ministers from the five Central Asian nations are expected to meet with Afghan officials on March 25.

The conference comes on the heels of the so-called Kabul Process event held in the Afghan capital on February 28 in which Afghan President Ashraf Ghani proposed peace talks with the Taliban without preconditions.

Representatives from more than 20 countries are expected to convene in Uzbekistan, including from the United States, the European Union, Pakistan, Iran, China, and Russia.

The State Department said in a March 22 statement that the Tashkent conference "will build on progress made at the February 28 Kabul Process Conference in a continued demonstration of international support for a peaceful political settlement in Afghanistan."

The State Department has said Shannon will discuss with Uzbek leaders "the progress made under President Mirziyoev's reform agenda, reaffirm support for Uzbekistan's initiative and valuable contributions to leadership in the region, and underscore the United States' commitment to stability in Uzbekistan and throughout the region," the State Department said.

Mirziyoev has taken steps to improve Uzbekistan's ties with its neighbors since he became president after authoritarian President Islam Karimov's death was announced in September 2016.

During Karimov's 27-year rule in Central Asia's most-populous nation, its relations with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan were strained by disputes over transit routes, border security, water resources, and other issues.

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