Khalilzad heads for Turkey ahead of Istanbul Summit

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad has left for Turkey and the region ahead of the Istanbul summit on Afghan peace which will be held next month.

The US State Department said in a statement on Saturday that Khalilzad began the trip on Thursday – a trip aimed at encouraging the two warring parties to accelerate their negotiations to end the conflict in Afghanistan.

“He will engage the two sides on their preparatory efforts for talks on a political settlement that produces a permanent ceasefire and a durable and just peace,” the statement read.

According to the statement, Khalilzad will also meet with stakeholders to discuss “how the region and international community can facilitate talks between the sides.”

The US-backed summit over the Afghan peace process is planned for Istanbul next month. Expected to attend are the Afghan government and Taliban delegations and the UN, US, Russia, China and representatives from a number of foreign countries.

Earlier, Reuters reported that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani will propose a new presidential election within six months at the Istanbul summit, signaling his refusal to accept Washington’s plan for his elected government to be replaced by an interim administration.