Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkey urge Taliban to commit to Afghan peace talks

Published April 23, 2021
Foreign Minister Shan Mahmood Qureshi and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu address a joint news conference in Istanbul on Friday. — Photo: FM Qureshi's Twitter
Foreign Minister Shan Mahmood Qureshi and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu address a joint news conference in Istanbul on Friday. — Photo: FM Qureshi's Twitter
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi arrived in Istanbul for a two-day official visit to Turkey. — Photo courtesy Radio Pakistan
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi arrived in Istanbul for a two-day official visit to Turkey. — Photo courtesy Radio Pakistan

The foreign ministers of Turkey, Pakistan and Afghanistan called on the Afghan Taliban on Friday to reaffirm their commitment to achieving a negotiated settlement for lasting peace in Afghanistan.

In a joint statement issued after talks in Istanbul, the three ministers underlined “the urgent need for an immediate ceasefire” to end the violence and “provide a conducive atmosphere” for peace talks.

A US-backed Afghan peace conference to be hosted in Istanbul 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 Ramazan 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 September 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 organise the conference in Istanbul would continue.

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

In a tweet, Qureshi said "an inclusive peace, the end of violence and a stable Afghanistan is beneficial" for trans-regional connectivity. "The international community must remain engaged with Afghanistan in reconstruction and economic development," he wrote.

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

Foreign Minister Qureshi also held a bilateral meeting with Atmar during which they discussed the latest developments in the Afghan peace process and strengthening of bilateral relations, the Foreign Office said.

Qureshi in a tweet termed his meeting with his Afghan counterpart as "great", saying he had re-emphasised "the need for meaningful engagement for a negotiated settlement to bring an end to over 4 decades of internal conflict in Afghanistan".

"Indeed peace creates greater opportunities for economic cooperation, prosperity and connectivity," the minister added.

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 US President Joe Biden.

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

FM Qureshi arrives in Istanbul

Earlier in the day, Foreign Minister Qureshi arrived in Istanbul for a two-day official visit on the invitation of his Turkish counterpart, reported Radio Pakistan.

Taking to Twitter shortly after arriving, Qureshi said: "Great to land in Turkey on the auspicious occasion of Turkish Sovereignty and Children's Day, commemorating the foundation of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, connecting children from all over the world in the spirit of peace and harmony."

He was also expected to have a meeting with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and speak to local and international media in Turkey, according to Radio Pakistan.

Qureshi is visiting Turkey to "participate in a trilateral meeting of the foreign ministers of Pakistan, Turkey and Afghanistan", according to a statement from the Foreign Office.

The FO said on Twitter that the trilateral process between the three countries, established in 2007, was "aimed at contributing towards peace & prosperity in Afghanistan".

"During the meeting, FM Qureshi will highlight Pakistan's valuable efforts towards achieving peace in Afghanistan through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned political process."

"The foreign minister will discuss the latest developments in the Afghan peace process [and] exchange views on achieving the shared objectives of a peaceful and stable Afghanistan," said the FO statement.

It added that the foreign minister would also hold bilateral talks with FM Cavusoglu during his visit.

"During the bilateral talks, the two foreign ministers will review the entire spectrum of bilateral relations and discuss preparations for the 7th Session of the High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council, which will be held in Turkey this year," said the statement, adding that the two sides would also discuss the regional security situation.

The statement noted that fraternal relations between Pakistan and Turkey were "deeply embedded in common faith, culture and history and underpinned by exceptional mutual trust and respect".

Qureshi's visit to Turkey comes as part of regular high-level exchanges between the two countries, said the statement, adding that FM Cavusoglu had also visited Pakistan in January while the two foreign ministers had also met on the sidelines of the 9th Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process Ministerial Conference in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, last month.

Turkey’s foreign ministry said that Friday’s three-way meeting would cover “recent developments regarding the Afghan peace process, cooperation in the fields of security, energy, connectivity and irregular migration”.

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