ISLAMABAD: The extended “Troika”, comprising United States, Russia, China, and Pakistan, has urged the Afghan government and the High Council for National Reconciliation to engage openly with their Taliban counterparts regarding a negotiated settlement in the war-torn country.
The extended “Troika” met with representatives of the Afghan government negotiating team and of the Taliban, as well as Qatar, which hosted the participants on Friday evening to discuss ways to support intra-Afghan negotiations and help the parties reach a negotiated settlement and a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire.
In the joint statement, released to the media in their respective capital, including in Islamabad on Saturday, the four states participating in the extended “Troika” urged the Afghan government and the High Council for National Reconciliation to engage openly with their Taliban counterparts regarding a negotiated settlement.
“We do not support the establishment in Afghanistan of any government imposed by force, consistent with the Joint Statement of the March 18 Expanded Troika,” it stated.
“We support a review of the status of designations of Taliban individuals and entities on the UN 1988 sanctions, as stated in the UNSC resolution 2513 (2020). Practical measures to reduce violence and sustained efforts to advance intra-Afghan negotiations by the Taliban will positively affect this review process,” it asserted.
The “Troika” met a day ahead of the expiry of the "deadline" on May 1, 2021 as agreed in the February 2020 US-Taliban deal for withdrawal of the foreign troops from Afghanistan.
But President Biden announced last month after reviewing the situation that foreign forces would stay in the country for months beyond May, withdrawing by September 11.
“We take note of the April 14 announcement by the United States and NATO that U.S./NATO forces will begin a responsible withdrawal from Afghanistan by May 1, 2021 that concludes by September 11, 2021,” the “Troika” stated in the joint statement.
They reiterated that the withdrawal of foreign troops should ensure a steady transition of the situation in Afghanistan. They stressed that, during the withdrawal period, the peace process should not be disrupted, no fights or turbulence shall occur in Afghanistan, and the safety of international troops should be ensured.
The “Troika” reiterated that there is no military solution in Afghanistan and a negotiated political settlement through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process is the only way forward for lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan.
They expected the Taliban to fulfill its counterterrorism commitments, including preventing terrorist groups and individuals from using Afghan soil to threaten the security of any other country; not hosting these groups and preventing them from recruiting, training, and fundraising.
“We expect the Afghan government to continue counterterrorism cooperation with the international community,” it added.
They reiterated their call on all parties to the conflict in Afghanistan to reduce the level of violence in the country and on the Taliban not to pursue a “Spring offensive”. “We condemn in the strongest terms any attacks deliberately targeting civilians in Afghanistan and call on all parties to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law in all circumstances, including those related to protection of civilians,” they asserted.
They reiterated that diplomatic personnel and property shall be inviolable, and the perpetrators of any attack or threat on foreign diplomatic personnel and properties in Kabul will be held accountable.
They note the preparations by Turkey to host a conference of senior leaders of both Afghan parties in order to accelerate the intra-Afghan negotiations, and we also welcome the United Nations and Qatar’s roles as co-conveners of this dialogue. “We call upon the negotiating parties to make progress toward an inclusive political settlement and a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire,” they added.
They also appreciated the long-standing support of the State of Qatar to facilitate the peace process, adding that they support the continuation of discussions between the parties’ negotiating teams in Doha.
The “Troika” also welcomed an expanded role for the United Nations in contributing to the Afghan peace and reconciliation process, including by leveraging its considerable experience and expertise in supporting other peace processes.
“We strongly advocate a durable and just political resolution that will result in the formation of an independent, sovereign, unified, peaceful, democratic, neutral and self-sufficient Afghanistan, free of terrorism and an illicit drug industry, which contributes to a safe environment for the voluntary, expeditious and sustainable return of Afghan refugees through a well-resourced plan; stability; and global security,” they announced. They called on all Afghans including the Afghan government and the Taliban to ensure that terrorist groups and individuals do not use Afghan soil to threaten the security of any other country.
They reaffirmed that any peace agreement must include protections for the rights of all Afghans, including women, men, children, victims of war, and minorities, and should respond to the strong desire of all Afghans for economic, social and political development including the rule of law.
They acknowledged the widespread and sincere demand of the Afghan people for a lasting and just peace and an end to the war.
The meeting was attended by US Special Representative on Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad, Russia’s special envoy for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov, Chinese Ambassador to Kabul Liu Jinsong as well as Chinese envoy to Doha, and Pakistan's Special Representative for Afghanistan Mohammad Sadiq.
While on the Taliban side, a high-level delegation led by Shir Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, Deputy of its Doha Political Bureau participated in the meeting, besides by the Afghan government negotiating team.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021