Afghanistan’s Taliban said it can’t participate in a peace conference in Istanbul slated for April 16 that had been aimed at reaching a political agreement between the country and the Taliban militants.
“Our current position is that we can’t participate in the conference during that date, although the Istanbul conference is still under our consideration,” the Islamic group’s spokesman Mohammad Naeem said in a text message, without providing further details.
The Afghan government and the Taliban were expected to reach a political agreement at the conference to pave the way for a road map that could help end a 20-year war. It was to be a UN-led peace event facilitated by the U.S., which is looking to pullout its remaining 2,500 troops from the country following any political settlement among Afghans.
The Afghan government has prepared a draft peace agreement that has been subsumed within the framework of the U.S. offer that proposed an interim government to replace President Ashraf Ghani’s administration in a bid to open the door for the Taliban and other political stakeholders to come together and discuss the country’s future. An immediate cease-fire is also part of the proposal.
During a four-day visit that ended Monday, U.S. special envoy for Afghan reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad called on Afghan leaders to accelerate the peace process and discussed preparations for the Istanbul conference.
Delegates from U.S., Russia, China, Iran and Pakistan were also scheduled to attend the Istanbul event.