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Saturday, July 31, 2021

Istanbul peace summit postponed as Taliban refuses to attend

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Officials saw the conference as a positive step towards ending decades of conference in Afghanistan.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Tuesday said the Istanbul peace conference has now been postponed until after Ramadan and Eid festivities, according to Haberturk news channel.

Cavusoglu said the decision to postpone the 10-day summit, scheduled to take place from April 24th until May 4th, was made after consulting Qatar, the US and the UN – the main hosts of the conference.

It also comes as the Taliban confirms its refusal to attend any peace conferences that come before the US completely withdraws its forces from Afghanistan, as per the 2020 February agreement.

“The conference would be meaningless without the Taliban joining. At the moment, we decided to postpone it since there is no clarity about the formation of the delegations and participation,” said Cavusoglu.

A senior Afghan government official confirmed to Reuters that the Istanbul meeting will not be going ahead on the scheduled dates due to the Taliban’s refusal to attend.

Read also: Turkish FM attends NATO meeting on Afghanistan

In a text message to Reuters, Taliban Spokesman Mohammad Naeem said the group had no information about the decision and that he cannot confirm any dates for the conference.

Meanwhile, Taliban attacks in Afghanistan have continued to increase in recent weeks since US President Joe Biden confirmed he would withdraw all remaining American troops from Afghanistan by September 11 with no further conditions.

At the time, the Taliban responded to the announcement saying the militants will stick to the February 2020 agreement signed in Doha, which had initially set a May 1st deadline for the troop withdrawal.

“The United States and the Taliban agreed that the withdrawal of foreign forces will take place at the end of April. This was something universally agreed upon,” Naeem told Al Araby TV.

Naeem added that the Taliban will continue to defend its people and their freedom as it has done for 20 years, stressing that “the responsibility rests with the violating party”.

The US-backed conference in Istanbul initially aimed to push the negotiating parties to reach a set of shared, foundational principles that reflect an agreed vision for a future Afghanistan, a roadmap to a future political settlement and an end to the decades long conflict.

The conference was also hoped to fast-track the Afghan peace process, which has been hosted by Qatar since 2019. Diplomats and delegations from Kabul, the Taliban and the US first met in the same room in Doha to begin talks to ensure the end of the conflict.


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