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Turkey to host ten-day Afghanistan peace summit

ANKARA: Turkey will host a peace summit for Afghanistan from April 24 to May 4 meant to jump-start efforts to end the war and sketch out a possible political settlement, Turkish authorities said.

The meeting would include the United Nations and Qatar as part of a US-backed push to advance talks ahead of a May 1 deadline for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.

Turkey’s foreign ministry said the Afghan government and the Taliban insurgent group would attend. However, the Taliban said they had not yet committed to those dates.

“Our internal discussions regarding this have not completed yet, the date can’t be specified until our discussions are completed,” Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem told a news agency.

On Monday the Taliban had said it was unwilling to attend talks in Turkey initially scheduled for April 16. “Participation in the conference and its agenda have been the subject of extensive consultations with the Afghan parties,” Turkey’s foreign ministry said.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York that “we very much hope” the Taliban will attend. More than 20 countries have been invited including Iran and Afghanistan’s other neighbors.

US President Joe Biden has decided to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, 2021. The date is the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks that led the United States to oust the Taliban from power and then establish its presence there with allies.

It was not immediately clear how the Taliban would respond to foreign troops staying past next month, after signing a deal with the Trump administration in February 2020 that stipulated May 2021 for departure.

The Turkey summit is meant to end the conflict, pave the way to a “just and durable” political settlement and “accelerate and complement” intra-Afghan negotiations in Doha, a Turkish foreign ministry statement said.