The foreign ministers of Afghanistan, Turkey, and Pakistan are calling on all parties to the Afghan conflict, “in particular the Taliban,” to reaffirm their commitment to achieving a negotiated settlement, after an international peace conference planned for this weekend was postponed.
In a joint statement issued after talks in Istanbul on April 23, Mevlut Cavusoglu, Hanif Atmar, and Shan Mahmood Qureshi said they "deplored the continuing high level of violence in Afghanistan."
They also "emphasized the urgent need for an immediate cease-fire" to end the violence and "provide a conducive atmosphere for the peace talks."
The Washington-backed conference, hosted by Turkey, Qatar, and the United Nations, was previously scheduled in Istanbul for April 24 to fast track an agreement between the Taliban and Afghan government with the aim of ending decades of war in the country.
But the event was postponed due to the Taliban's nonparticipation, with Ankara saying it would take place after Ramadan celebrations end in mid-May. No precise date has been given.
Speaking after the Istanbul talks, Cavusoglu said the Turkish government's support for the Afghan peace process and efforts to organize the conference in the Turkish city would continue.
"As the co-organizers, we are continuing talks on this with all sides," he said.
U.S. President Joe Biden last week announced the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan by September 11, four months later than the May 1 deadline agreed to with the Taliban by the previous administration of Donald Trump.
In response, the insurgents announced it would not attend the high-level peace conference planned for this week.
Taliban assaults on foreign troops in Afghanistan have largely ceased since a peace deal was signed in the Qatari capital, Doha, in February 2020 by the Taliban and the Trump administration.
However, attacks have continued against Afghan security forces and government personnel.
Under the Doha accord, all foreign forces were to leave Afghanistan by May 1 in exchange for security guarantees from the militant group, such as severing ties with Al-Qaeda and refusing to harbor any foreign terrorists.
The Taliban also pledged to negotiate a cease-fire and a power-sharing deal with Kabul, but months of intra-Afghan peace talks in Qatar between the Taliban and Afghan officials have stalled.
In their statement, the foreign ministers of Turkey, Pakistan, and Afghanistan vowed to “combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations” and “enhance cooperation on regional connectivity in transport, trade, energy, people-to-people contacts, education, social and cultural exchange, tourism.”
They also “acknowledged the role of the regional and neighboring countries, in particular Pakistan and Iran in hosting Afghan refugees for more than four decades and called for creating conducive conditions in Afghanistan for their voluntary, safe, dignified, expeditious and sustainable repatriation.”
The Afghan foreign minister traveled to Istanbul for the talks but the Foreign Ministry said he would attend them virtually "as advised by physicians."
"Preliminary tests do not rule out the possibility that Minister Atmar being infected with COVID-19," according to the ministry.