• Istanbul moot postponed after Taliban refused to attend
• Joint statement issued after foreign ministers of Pakistan, Turkey and Afghanistan meet

ISLAMABAD: Foreign ministers of Pakistan, Turkey and Afghanistan on Friday called on the Afghan Taliban to recommit to a political settlement of the conflict in their country that is now in its 20th year.

The three foreign ministers — Shah Mahmood Qureshi (Pakistan), Mevlüt Çavusoglu (Turkey), and Haneef Atmar (Afghanistan) — made this appeal at a trilateral ministerial meeting of the three countries hosted by Turkey, where they discussed the postponed 10-day conference that would have given a fresh impetus to international efforts for peace in Afghanistan.

The ‘Pakistan, Turkey, Afghanistan’ trilateral was started in 2007 for contributing to peace in Afghanistan.

A joint statement issued at the end of the meeting, while referring to the postponement of the ‘Istanbul Conference’ 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”.

The 10-day peace conference on Afghanistan, which was to be held from April 24 to May 4, was postponed after the Taliban refused to participate in it. The conference, a US initiative, was being hosted by Turkey, Qatar, and the United Nations.

Taliban refused to participate in the conference after President Joe Biden announced Sept 11 as the new date for complete withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan.

The postponement of the conference undermined the international efforts for peace in Afghanistan. Taliban demanded that the US stick to the May 1 deadline for withdrawal originally set in the Doha Agreement signed by the two sides in February 2020.

The Turkish foreign ministry, while announcing the postponement, had said it would be convened again when “conditions for making meaningful progress would be more favorable”.

Foreign Minister Çavusoglu, meanwhile, told the Turkish media that the meeting was likely to be held after Eidul Fitr.

The joint statement noted that Istanbul Conference would be held when conditions would be favourable for making “meaningful progress”.

FM Qureshi said the meeting “re-emphasised the need for a meaningful engagement for a negotiated settlement to bring an end to over four decades of internal conflict in Afghanistan.”

The foreign ministers, in the joint statement, also called for an immediate ceasefire. “Emphasised 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,” the statement added.

The ministers had deplored the continuing high level of violence in Afghanistan and especially regretted the high number of civilian casualties. They condemned attacks targeting civil service employees, civil society activists, human rights defenders, journalists and media workers.

Published in Dawn, April 24th, 2021

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