The Taliban and Afghanistan’s government will join upcoming talks to begin the peace process in Afghanistan, Turkey’s foreign ministry announced on Tuesday.
The warring sides will join the United Nations and Qatar at a 10-day summit hosted by Turkey aimed at ending the 20-year conflict and laying the groundwork for a “just and durable” political settlement, the ministry said.
The Turkish government also said the negotiations are meant to “accelerate and complement” intra-Afghan talks that are ongoing in Qatar’s capital of Doha.
The summit is part of a U.S.-supported effort to begin negotiations before a May 1 deadline for withdrawing U.S. and NATO troops from Afghanistan.
The Taliban and the U.S. agreed to the May 1 withdrawal more than a year ago, but the Biden administration indicated Tuesday the U.S. would leave American troops in the country beyond the deadline, until September 11.
Turkey’s announcement that the Taliban would attend the talks came as a surprise, given that a Taliban spokesman said Monday the insurgent group would not attend the conference, potentially jeopardizing U.S. efforts to develop a peace plan.
Amid concern that violence in Afghanistan would intensify if a deal is not reached soon, the U.S. envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, has been visiting the region to garner support for a cease-fire and a peace agreement.
Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, has spent the past week inviting counterparts in the U.S. and in some Gulf Arab countries to the talks and encouraging them to support efforts to achieve peace in Afghanistan.