During a visit to Afghanistan Sunday, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim announced his country’s support for an Afghan peace offer to Taliban insurgents.
The “Taliban should not lose this historic and rare opportunity, and it is time for [the] Taliban to make peace with the Afghan government,” Yildirim said during a joint press conference in Kabul with Abdullah Abdullah, chief executive of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani offered unconditional peace talks with the Afghan Taliban more than a month ago during the Kabul Process conference in the nation's capital and asked for a cease-fire.
“Yildirim has reiterated that his government will continue to stand with the Afghan government and people and that it will support an Afghan-owned peace process,” Shah Hussain Murtazawi, a spokesperson for the Afghan president told VOA.
Turkey’s call for peace in Afghanistan comes as the Taliban still maintained its silence and has yet to formally respond to the peace offer. The Afghan High Peace Council, the body tasked with talking to the insurgents, said the Taliban might be mulling over a response.
“We are ready to facilitate any meeting with the Taliban in the country of their choice. They have no option but to accept [the] Afghan people’s call for peace,” Afghan High Peace Council spokesperson Sayed Ehsan Tahiri told VOA.
Broad support for peace initiative
Ghani's call for peace is being backed by many world leaders who have offered to help the initiative gain momentum.
Last Friday, Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi visited Kabul, where according to an Afghan presidential palace statement, “Abbasi called the Afghan-owned peace process the only way for peace and reassured his country’s cooperation to the initiative.”
Prior to that, on March 27, Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev told senior diplomats from regional, as well as NATO member states, that his county was ready to host direct talks with the Taliban.
“We stand ready to create all necessary conditions, at any stage of the peace process, to arrange on the territory of Uzbekistan direct talks between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban movement,” Mirziyoyev said at an international conference on Afghanistan in the capital city of Tashkent.
Indonesia peace conference
Jakarta is preparing to host a trilateral conference, where religious scholars from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Indonesia would meet to help find a solution to end more than 16 years of war in Afghanistan.
The Afghan High Peace Council said Indonesia and Afghanistan were ready to hold the conference and were waiting for Pakistan to confirm its participation.
“Pakistan had promised to confirm its participation last week, but it has not”, said Tahiri. “Religious scholars from all three countries — Afghanistan, Indonesia and Pakistan — would meet in Jakarta, but no date for the meeting is set yet.”
The Afghan Taliban urged scholars to boycott the conference. In a message to journalists in March, the Taliban said the conference was purely intended to "legitimize the illegitimate government of Afghanistan and the presence of infidel invaders (a reference to international troops in Afghanistan) in the country."
The insurgent group previously offered to hold talks on a possible peace agreement directly with the United States, but U.S. officials declined.