On Friday October 29, Tajik Foreign Minister Sirojiddin Muhriddin met here with the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE PA) Margareta Cederfelt.

A wide range of issues of cooperation within the OSCE framework was discussed at the meeting, according to the Tajik MFA information department.  .

The parties noted the significance of strengthening inter-parliamentary cooperation for the expansion of relations.

Besides, the interlocutors reportedly underscored the importance of jointly addressing the modern challenges, such as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy, climate change, border security, the fight against terrorism and extremism, drug and weapons trafficking.  They also discussed issues of human rights, gender equality and increasing the role of women in the political and economic life of society.

The latest developments in Afghanistan were discussed during the meeting.  Muhriddin informed Margareta Cederfelt about the alarming situation along Afghanistan’s common border with Tajikistan.

The parties expressed their readiness to use ample opportunities to intensify cooperation in all three dimensions of the OSCE comprehensive security approach, the Tajik MFA information department said.

Meanwhile, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s website said on October 30 that a high-level delegation of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, composed of President Margareta Cederfelt (MP, Sweden), Vice-President Pia Kauma (MP, Finland), and Secretary General Roberto Montella has just concluded an official visit to Tajikistan.  In Dushanbe, the PA leaders met with the Majlisi Namoyandagon (Tajikistan’s lower chamber of parliament) Speaker Mahmadtoir Zokirzoda, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Sirojiddin Muhriddin and the Delegation of Tajikistan to the OSCE PA led by Saidmurod Fattohzoda.

In the context of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, discussions reportedly focused on regional stability and pointed out the vulnerability of the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan which is more than 1,300 kilometers long.

Discussions with the UNHCR Representative in Tajikistan, Mulugeta Zewdie Mamo, raised alarms on a growing humanitarian crisis as winter looms, with increased pressure from Afghanistan on neighboring countries.  Noting that Tajikistan was the first Central Asian country to accede to the 1951 Refugee Convention, the UNHCR underlined the need to provide access to asylum procedures and to respect the principle of non-refoulement.

“All OSCE participating States are keeping a close eye on Afghanistan and seeking to prevent broader instability in Central Asia,” said President Cederfelt.  “The security threats are multiple and the response of the international community must be comprehensive.  It is therefore important that we continue to engage actively with Tajikistan and its PA delegation to hear concerns and provide adequate support.”

She reportedly noted that the OSCE PA’s online Autumn Meeting on 3-4 November will feature a Parliamentary Conference on the theme “Current Security Challenges: Focus on Afghanistan.”

Acknowledging improved management of water resources, the talks also underlined the need for continued co-operation in this area.

Throughout the visit, the delegation had the opportunity to explore the wide variety of activities implemented by local organizations in the social, economic, human rights, and political spheres.

Vice-President Pia Kauma, who also serves as Special Representative on Central Asia, noted the key role of civil society in addressing community-based security issues.

“Being closer to communities, local organizations are often better able to understand their needs and offer more effective solutions,” said Kauma.  “The work undertaken by civil society in Tajikistan, in particular to empower women and youth, is essential to promote a more peaceful and just society.”

A visit to the Youth Center in Vahdat Township, where a sizable Afghan community lives, highlighted the educational and youth development services provided to locals and refugees by the local municipality, with support from the international community.

The delegation also visited the Women’s Resource Center in Obi-Kiik, Khatlon Province, which is part of a nationwide network of focal points established by the OSCE Programme Office in Dushanbe offering community-based vocational training and counseling for survivors of domestic violence.

“The Parliamentary Assembly has always been a strong supporter of the OSCE’s field operations. Learning more about the concrete impact that the OSCE has on the lives of the people of Tajikistan encourages us to redouble our efforts in promoting this important work,” said Secretary General Roberto Montella. “We must therefore continue to use the political influence of parliamentarians throughout the OSCE region to safeguard this key aspect of our organization.”

The visit to Tajikistan, the first by a PA President since 2010, followed an official visit to Uzbekistan earlier in the week.