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Friday, July 30, 2021

Moscow conference calls for ‘immediate ceasefire’ in Afghanistan

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The senior-level meeting was held in Moscow as international pressure mounts to end the decades-long conflict in Afghanistan.

Russia, the US, China and Pakistan have called for an immediate ceasefire between the Afghan government and the Taliban to put an end to the ongoing conflict in the war-torn country.

“At this turning point, our four countries call on the sides to hold talks and reach a peace agreement that will end more than four decades of war in Afghanistan,” a joint statement read after Thursday’s Moscow talks.

The four countries will be providing political and economic support for Afghanistan once the warring factions reach an agreement, the statement added.

A day after the conference, the Afghan government and the Taliban agreed on pushing forward with peace talks.

“We called for an end to targeted killings and a comprehensive ceasefire to begin the next rounds of the talks in a peaceful environment,” tweeted Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation.

Read also: Biden says ‘tough’ to meet US troop withdrawal deadline in Afghanistan

Russia hosted the senior-level meeting to fast-track the stalled intra-Afghan talks amid ongoing attacks in Kabul, six weeks ahead of a US deadline to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan, as per a February agreement.

However, US President Joe Biden said that the complete withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan remains “tough” as the Taliban continue their attacks in Kabul.

“I’m in the process of making that decision now,” said Biden on ABC News, responding to a question about meeting the May deadline.

In response to Biden’s comments, the Taliban said there would be “consequences” if Washington failed to stick to the agreement, placing the current peace process at great risk.

Under the former Donald Trump Administration, the US and the Taliban signed a historic deal to withdraw American and NATO forces by May 1st. In turn, the Taliban would stop its attacks in Afghanistan and cut its ties with terrorist organisations.

US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is now pushing for the end of Washington’s longest war through his active participation in the Moscow meeting and negotiations in Qatar.

The official has carried proposals by the Biden Administration to end the war, including an interim government which neither Afghan President Ashraf Ghani nor the Taliban seem to be in favour of.

Read also: Afghan govt accepts Biden proposal for Turkey ‘peace conference’: reports

Khalilzad has also proposed a Turkey meeting, which is set to take place next month.

So far, the Afghan government confirmed its participation at the proposed peace conference with the Taliban in Turkey in April, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Afghan National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib said his delegation agreed to attend the conference in Istanbul.

“If the Taliban sends negotiators from Doha, the Afghan government will also send its delegates that are currently in the Qatari capital,” he told a press conference.

The initial talks began in Doha in September last year, in which the Afghan government and members of the Taliban were brought together to put an end to the 20-decade-long war. However, the warring factions took a break in December to await the new Biden administration.

As global powers continue to get involved with the Afghan peace process, officials have on several occasions confirmed talks outside of Doha are not designed to compete with Qatar, but aim to push the for peace.

“We all want the tragedy in Afghanistan to end as soon as possible,” said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in a press conference in Qatar.

“We are not competing with Qatar or anyone else here. We do not speak here from positions that can be made the subject of some kind of jealousy,” he added.


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