Afghanistan, Turkey, Pakistan, call on Taliban to commit to Afghan peace talks

Afghanistan, Turkey, and Pakistan on Friday called on the Taliban to reaffirm their commitment to achieving an inclusive negotiated settlement leading to lasting peace in Afghanistan.

The Foreign Ministers of these countries held a trilateral meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, and discussed the Afghan peace process.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Haneef Atmar, who was tested positive for COVID-19, virtually attended the conference.

“Regretfully I tested positive for Covid-19 and had to attend the Afghanistan-Turkey-Pakistan Meeting virtually,” Atmar tweeted.

“Grateful to my brothers Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and Shah Mahmood Qureshi for supporting a peaceful, sovereign, united and democratic Afghanistan.”

“Deploring violence, we called on Taliban for an immediate ceasefire and return to negotiation,” Atmar said.

In a joint statement issued after talks in Istanbul, the three diplomats stated that a sustainable peace can be achieved only through an inclusive Afghan-led and Afghan-owned political process that aims a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire along with an inclusive political settlement to end the conflict in the country.

The diplomats emphasized the urgent need for an immediate ceasefire both to end the existing high level of violence and to provide a conducive atmosphere for the peace talks.

A U.S.-backed Afghan peace conference to be hosted in Istanbul hosted by Turkey, Qatar, and the United Nations on Saturday was postponed over the Taliban’s non-participation.

Ankara has said the talks will be held after the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan but no new date has been set.

The foreign ministers of Turkey, Afghanistan, and Pakistan on Friday discussed the planned conference, aimed at fast-tracking an agreement between the Afghan government and the Taliban following Washington’s announcement that foreign troops will leave Afghanistan by Sept. 11.

The ministers “called on all parties, in particular, the Taliban to reaffirm their commitment for achieving an inclusive negotiated settlement leading to lasting peace in Afghanistan desired by the Afghan people, the region and the international community”, according to the joint statement.

They also “deplored the continuing high level of violence in Afghanistan.”

Speaking at a joint news conference after the talks, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Ankara’s support for the Afghan peace process and efforts to organize the conference in Istanbul would continue.

“As the co-organizers, we are continuing talks on this with all sides,” he said, alongside Pakistani Foreign Minister Shan Mahmood Qureshi.

Afghan Foreign Minister Hanif Atmar joined the meeting via video link for health reasons, Cavusoglu said.

The Taliban had earlier refused to attend any summits until all foreign forces were pulled out of Afghanistan. The Taliban and the United States last year agreed that all foreign forces would be withdrawn from Afghanistan by May 1, a date that was pushed back last week by U.S. President Joe Biden.

The Islamist Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, when they were ousted by U.S.-led forces. Since then, they have waged a long-running insurgency and still control wide swathes of territory.