UPDATE - Uzbekistan, Afghanistan Discuss Resumption Of Food Security Cooperation - Ministry

TASHKENT (Pakistan Point News / Sputnik - 23rd February, 2022) Uzbekistan intends to resume cooperation with Afghanistan on food security issues, the Uzbek Ministry Ministry of Investments and Foreign Trade said on Wednesday.

Deputy Prime Minister Sardor Umurzakov and acting head of the Afghan interim government, Mohammad Hassan Akhund, discussed bilateral cooperation in Kabul.

"Further steps have been outlined to resume cooperation to ensure food security, accelerate the resumption of economic activity and maintain sustainable peace in Afghanistan," the ministry said in a statement.

Particularly, the officials discussed construction projects of the Mazar-i-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar railway line and the Surkhon-Puli-Khumri power transmission line, the ministry added.

The Afghan side expressed readiness to cooperate on these projects, and expressed gratitude to Uzbekistan for assistance in the restoration of the Kabul airport, the statement read.

According to the Uzbek president's special representative for Afghanistan, Ismatulla Irgashev, frozen foreign funds of Afghanistan belong to the whole population of the country rather than certain individuals.

"We are in favor of unfreezing Afghanistan's assets abroad. It is necessary to realize that these funds belong to the entire Afghan people, not its representatives," he said at a meeting of Special Representatives of the EU and Central Asian countries for Afghanistan, held in Tashkent on Wednesday.

Afghanistan will be unable to get out of the crisis without its funds being unfrozen, Irgashev is convinced. The interim government, set up in September 2021 after the Taliban (under UN sanctions for terrorist activities) takeover, has managed to undertake certain measures to bring peace to Afghanistan, he noted.

In particular, it has somewhat succeeded in the fight with drug traffic and terrorism, as well as resumed the activities of some state institutions, and restored wages.

"However, the Afghan authorities are daily facing an acute shortage of cash in the country," Irgashev said.

The Afghan economy has been crumbling since the Taliban takeover and withdrawal of foreign troops last fall. The country's foreign assets were frozen and several countries and organizations refused to cooperate with the radical movement.