The UN chief on Tuesday called for an immediate and unconditional cease-fire in Afghanistan to save lives and fight the coronavirus pandemic.

“I urge the redoubling of efforts towards an immediate, unconditional cease-fire, in order to save lives and prevent the further spread of COVID-19,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Speaking at a high-level conference on Afghanistan to drive a peace process involving the Taliban, he called for an immediate, comprehensive, and nationwide cease-fire and protection of civilians.

“This will create a conducive environment for the Afghanistan peace negotiations in Doha [Qatar] – a major opportunity to realize the long-held aspirations of the Afghan people,” said Guterres.

He said an inclusive process, in which women, young people and victims of the conflict are meaningfully represented, offers the best hope of sustainable peace.

“If we can link that with economic opportunity, the prospects will be even brighter,” said the UN chief.

Also speaking at the conference, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said: “We are committed to promoting an interim government through the Troika-plus one with the participation of Russia, the United States, and China, as well as Pakistan.”

He said other partners might also be invited to engage upon the successful completion of the negotiating process. “The international community required steps to facilitate the development of post-conflict Afghanistan.”

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said: “With intra-Afghan peace negotiations having started, but terrible violence still causing great suffering for the Afghan people, Afghanistan is at a crossroads.

“The Afghan people can count on the European Union’s support for a prosperous and peaceful future for their country, but our support relies on democracy, human rights, and social progress being protected.”

-2-day Geneva event seeks commitments

Under a US-Taliban peace deal inked in February, the Taliban insurgents agreed to halt attacks on major cities and provincial capitals.

The aim of the two-day Geneva event, which coincides with the ongoing peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban leaders in Qatar, is to determine shared development goals and commitments over the next four years.

Co-hosted by Afghanistan and Finland with the UN, more than 70 countries, international organizations, and agencies are expected to participate, as well as civil society representatives, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said.

Previous meetings took place in 2016 in Brussels and Tokyo in 2012, but organizers have so far avoided saying how much they would like to raise in pledges.

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