Afghan peace talks have to go beyond the existing US-Taliban agreement, said Ambassador Hakan Tekin, director general for South Asia at the Turkish Foreign Ministry.

The US-Taliban deal created the basis for the start of the peace talks, but it is time to move on to direct intra-Afghan talks, Tekin said in an interview with Anadolu Agency.

“The intra-Afghan negotiations started based on the US-Taliban agreement, but now we have to go beyond that. It created a background. The parties have to build upon that. But for peace in Afghanistan, we need an intra-Afghan peace deal. So that was just a step towards reaching an eventual peace,” Tekin said.

The diplomat went on to say that he hoped no parties would start an offensive in the spring even if the US fails to fulfill its obligations under the agreement with the Taliban and withdraw its troops from Afghanistan.
Turkey’s primary goal in the Afghan settlement is to stop the bloodshed, the taking of people’s lives, and reach “a lasting, fair peace,” he added.

“We hope no parties will start an offensive, including the Taliban. But we should not ignore the fact that the conflict is going on in Afghanistan even right now. Every day, we get reports about the killings of tens of dozens of people, mostly civilians. That is a big concern for us and a larger community within and outside Afghanistan. For Turkey, the primary goal is to stop the bloodshed and then to build on that to reach a lasting, fair peace, which only can be done by the Afghans,” Tekin said.

Commenting on the Moscow meeting on the Afghan peace settlement, he said, “any international effort which can add value to the existing efforts, peace talks, is welcome.”

“With that in mind, we came here, and we had an updated discussion on the status of the negotiations as well as the recent position of the parties. In this sense, it [the meeting in Moscow] was useful,” he said.

Tekin made it clear that the Moscow meeting was not like a negotiation in the classical sense but rather an exchange of opinions on recent developments.

“The main negotiations take place in Doha. The other initiatives, including the Moscow format, troika on the Afghan settlement, try to support the existing negotiating framework. In this sense, it was useful. But I cannot say there was progress in the negotiation process,” he said.

However, all meetings, if they have good intentions, can bring an added value to existing efforts, and in this regard, the meeting in Moscow can play its role, he noted.

“Communication is essential. Even sitting at the same table like today — that, in itself, is something we appreciate. We have to be realistic. The progress will not be quick. We have to be patient. But if we keep on the right track and with good faith, we can have some results,” he said.
As for the upcoming meeting in Istanbul, it will be a different meeting; it will be direct talks between Afghan parties, the diplomat said.

“There are some drafts prepared, evaluated by Afghan parties. Hopefully, in the Istanbul meeting, we can see some progress. Based on that progress and the existing talks, the parties could reach some final agreement. That is our goal,” he said.

On Feb. 29, 2020, the Taliban signed an agreement with the US, which suggests the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan within 14 months. The period expires on May 1.

However, new US President Joe Biden has a different view on the Afghan crisis and is in no hurry to pull out US troops.

In an interview with TV channel ABC, Biden said the withdrawal is possible but difficult to implement.

After the 9/11 terrorist attack against the World Trade Center buildings in 2001, the US invaded Afghanistan. The 19 years of US involvement plus related conflicts have cost the lives of over 100,000 civilians and forced millions to flee their homes. The UN has repeatedly urged that opportunities for peace in the region should be seized.

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