More than a dozen diplomatic missions in Afghanistan have called for "an urgent end" to the Taliban's military offensives across the war-torn country, saying they are at odds with claims the militant group wants a negotiated settlement to end the conflict.
Fifteen missions, the EU delegation, and the NATO representative in Kabul made the call in a joint statement on July 19, following another round of inconclusive peace talks in Doha over the weekend between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
After two days of talks in the Qatari capital, the sides said they agreed on the need to reach a "just solution," and to meet again "next week."
There was no mention of a cease-fire for the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha, which begins in Afghanistan on July 20.
Several times in the past, the Taliban and Kabul government have agreed on short truces during Islamic holidays, raising hopes they could be extended into longer-term cease-fires.
Intra-Afghan peace negotiations in Doha have been stalled for months while the Taliban carried out a sweeping offensive that saw the insurgents capture nearly half of the country’s more than 420 districts, threaten several provincial capitals, and take control of a number of border posts as U.S.-led international forces exit the country.
"This Eid al-Adha, the Taliban should lay down their weapons for good and show the world their commitment to the peace process," the diplomatic missions in Kabul said in their joint statement, adding that the insurgents’ offensive “is in direct contradiction to their claim to support a negotiated settlement of the conflict."
"It has resulted in loss of innocent Afghan lives, including through continued targeted killings, displacement of the civilian population, looting and burning of buildings, destruction of vital infrastructure, and damage to communication networks."
The text was supported by Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Britain, and the United States, as well as the European Union delegation to Afghanistan and the Office of the NATO Senior Civilian Representative.
The statement denounced “the indiscriminate detaining and killing of civilians and assaults of prisons” in Taliban-controlled areas, as well as attempts to repress the human rights of women and girls and to shut media outlets.
It called on all parties to the conflict to immediately end the violence, agree to a “permanent and comprehensive” cease-fire, and “engage fully in peace negotiations to end the suffering of the Afghan people and pave the way to an inclusive political settlement.”
In Doha, the Afghan government delegation was led by Abdullah Abdullah, the second-highest Afghan official and the chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation.
"We agreed to continue the talks, seek a political settlement to the current crisis, avoid civilian casualties, facilitate humanitarian assistance & medical supplies to tackle Covid-19 pandemic," he tweeted.
The Taliban team was headed by top Taliban figure Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.
"Both sides agreed upon the need for expedition in the peace talks, in order to find a fair and permanent solution for the current issue in Afghanistan as soon as possible," the militant group said in a statement.
This story is based on reporting by Radio Azadi correspondents on the ground in Afghanistan. Their names are being withheld for their protection.