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Three-way talks on Afghan peace process to be held in Istanbul today

ISTANBUL: The foreign ministers of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkey will hold talks in Istanbul on Friday (today) after a wider Afghan peace conference was postponed because the Taliban announced they would not participate.

The planned peace talks in Turkey were scheduled for April 24 to fast-track an agreement between the Taliban and Afghan government in light of the announcement by the United States that foreign troops would leave Afghanistan by September 11. No new date has been set for those talks.

Turkey’s foreign ministry said the three-way meeting would cover “recent developments regarding the Afghan peace process, cooperation in the fields of security, energy, connectivity and irregular migration”.

On Monday, Pakistan urged the Taliban to remain engaged in the Afghan peace process after the armed group said it would now shun summits about Afghanistan until all foreign forces leave. The decision was taken after the US said last week it would withdraw all troops by Sept 11 this year, later than a May 1 deadline set out by the previous administration.

READ MORE: FM Qureshi urges Taliban to remain engaged in Afghan peace process

The international conference, deemed essential for the war-torn country’s future amid the withdrawal of foreign troops and escalating violence, was scheduled to be held from April 24 until May 4 in the Turkish metropolis.

Last week, US President Joe Biden announced that the withdrawal of all its forces would begin on May 1 in line with an agreement President Donald Trump’s administration made with the Taliban, but some US troops will remain to protect American diplomats.

Biden said American diplomatic and humanitarian efforts would continue in Afghanistan and that the US would support peace efforts between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

In line with Biden’s announcement, all American troops will depart from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of terrorist attacks in the US.

The intra-Afghan talks began after a February 2020 agreement between the Taliban and the US that sets a timeline for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan in exchange for security guarantees.

Kabul has insisted on a permanent cease-fire, a demand so far rejected by the insurgents. The two sides have been engaged in a second round of talks in the Gulf city since January 10.