UN: Asia must trade with Afghanistan

Afghanistan's neighbours meeting at a UN conference have been urged to boost regional trade and cooperation, despite competing for similar markets.

    Poppy production has become Afghanistan's greatest cash crop

    Ahead of the ministerial conference on Wednesday, a senior United Nations official warned that neighbours such as Iran and the former Soviet Central Asian republics were doing too little to help put Afghanistan on a stable footing.
      
    "Afghanistan's restoration is going on in a vacuum, but the country is ready to build bridges," Ercan Murat, Kabul representative of the the UN Development Programme (UNDP), said.
      
    Speaking in Kyrgyzstan's capital Bishkek, Murat was one of a number of senior officals pushing for permanent cooperation between Kabul and its regional partners.
      
    Land bridge

    Afghan Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani called on Iran, Pakistan and Uzbekistan to put to one side doubts about whether Afghanistan can overcome its current instability and reliance on heroin as the basis of its economy. 
      

    "Afghanistan's restoration is going on in a vacuum"

    Ercan Murat,
    UN Development Programme

    "Afghanistan can serve as a land bridge for the Central Asian republics," Ghani said.
      
    Although several neighbours see Afghanistan as a potentially convenient route to the sea for exports such as natural gas, oil and cotton – problems remain.

    Competition

    Last month, Uzbekistan slammed shut all of its borders after a series of blasts, that it blamed on Taliban remnants infiltrating via Afghanistan
      
    But aggressive market competition may also be part of the reason why the border remains shut.

    Iran, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan all depend on exporting the same types of product to distant world markets, according to the World Bank.
      
    This week's conference to be overseen by UNDP administrator Mark Malloch Brown will focus instead on ways of reducing trade barriers, enhancing transport infrastructure and streamlining border systems in region.
      
    Afghanistan's neighbours have made a variety of overtures to Kabul recently, including an invitation to interim Afghan President Hamid Karzai to attend talks in June in Uzbekistan of a six-nation security grouping, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation that includes China and Russia.

    SOURCE: AFP


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