BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan — The former Soviet republic of Tajikistan took a big step toward lasting peace after four years of civil war when the government agreed Sunday to legalize major Islamist opposition parties and media.
The deal, part of a planned comprehensive peace settlement, was signed by Tajik President Emamali Rakhmonov and opposition leader Sayed Abdullo Nuri after two days of talks in Bishkek, capital of neighboring Kyrgyzstan.
They also agreed on an amnesty and exchange of prisoners.
Rakhmonov and Nuri--archfoes in the recent past--gave each other a brotherly hug a few moments later.
In December, Rakhmonov's secular government and the Islamists agreed to a cease-fire to end the war that killed tens of thousands of people.
Military terms for the peace deal and a power-sharing agreement had been agreed upon.
But legalization of the opposition and its press, as well as the amnesty, were the main obstacles blocking the talks mediated by the United Nations, Russia and Iran.
The political protocol signed in Bishkek provides for legalization of Tajikistan's three main parties--including the leading opposition force, the Islamic Renaissance Party--and of the opposition press.
The opposition would have to disband most of its armed units first but would be allowed to station up to 500 fighters in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe.