Afghan peace conference put off over Taliban non-participation

Published April 21, 2021
Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar leaves after signing an agreement with the US during a ceremony in the Qatari capital Doha on February 29, 2020. — AFP/File
Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar leaves after signing an agreement with the US during a ceremony in the Qatari capital Doha on February 29, 2020. — AFP/File

KABUL: A Washington-backed Afghan peace conference in Turkey has been postponed over non-participation by the Taliban.

The meeting was scheduled for April 24 to fast-track an agreement between the Taliban and the Afghan government in light of the announcement by Washin­gton that foreign troops would leave Afghanistan by Sept 11.

The Istanbul meeting is not happening on the given date because the Taliban refused to attend, a senior Afghan government official said.

The postponement was confirmed by two other sources, including one official whose country is involved in the planning process. There was no immediate revised date.

An Afghan government spokesman declined comment on the matter.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu of Turkey, one of the hosts of the talks, said they had been put off until after Ramazan, adding that participation in the conference remained unclear.

US State Department spo­ke­sman Ned Price did not confirm the postponement, but said broader diplomatic efforts will continue. “We’ve always been clear, Istanbul was not a replacement for Doha.” UN spokesman Step­hane Dujarric said earlier on Tuesday that he could not confirm if the conference had been postponed.

“The United Nations, along with the co-conveners, Qatar, Turkey, we’re continuing to engage with representatives of both the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban on ways to strengthen and add impetus to the intra-Afghan negotiations,” Dujarric told reporters.

The UN special envoy for Afghanistan, Deborah Lyons, was in Doha last week to discuss with Afghan parties “the best way the international community can support them in making progress on their negotiations toward a just and durable political settlement,” Dujarric said.

Published in Dawn, April 21st, 2021

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