On Tuesday, delegates from participating and supporting countries as well as representatives from international organizations at the Heart of Asia--Istanbul Process conference held in Dushanbe issued a 30-points approach to promote peace and security in Afghanistan.
Delegates announced in the declaration that they support the ongoing efforts for the peace process and the continuation of the negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
The declaration calls on Afghanistan's neighboring nations to maximize their efforts for the success of the peace process in the country.
“While recognizing the importance and contributions of neighboring countries and regional and international partners, we call upon them to maximize their efforts for the success of the peace process,” reads the declaration.
The declaration states that long-term stability and prosperity in the region require peace and security in Afghanistan.
“The region, as well as the international community, has a shared responsibility and common interest to work together for promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan,” according to the declaration.
On regional efforts for peace, the declaration said: “We welcome the renewed diplomatic efforts by all countries to accelerate the peace process through a meaningful peace negotiation, including the ongoing negotiations in Doha, the Moscow “Troika plus” meeting, and diligent preparations for a high-level meeting in Turkey.”
The document also supported the enhanced role for the UN in the peace process for Afghanistan.
On the importance of a ceasefire, the declaration said: “We recognize that a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire will enable all sides to reach an agreement on a political settlement.”
Delegates said that any political settlement must protect the rights of all Afghans, including women, youth and minorities.
Participating countries also condemned the high level of violence, especially the high number of civilian causalities and deliberate targeting of civil society activists, human rights defenders, journalists and media workers by the Taliban and terrorist groups.
On ties between Taliban and Al Qaeda, the declaration said: “We also express our concerns about the continued relations between the Taliban and international terrorist groups, including Al-Qaida, as outlined in the 27th report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team of the United Nations Security Council (S/2021/68).”
The declaration also hailed the sacrifices of the Afghan security forces. “We commend the sacrifices and achievements of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) in the fight against international terrorism, and we emphasize the importance of supporting the Afghan Government in capacity building, in particular of the ANDSF, in securing their country and in the fight against international terrorism.”
On opium production in Afghanistan: “We are concerned about the high level of illicit cultivation and production of opium in Afghanistan.”
On UN role for peace in Afghanistan, the declaration said: “We recognize the central and impartial role of the United Nations in promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan and express our appreciation for all efforts of the Secretary-General and his Special Representative for Afghanistan through the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).”
This comes as a UN-led conference on Afghanistan is expected to be held in Turkey in the near future with representatives from all sides of the conflict will attend it.
President Ashraf Ghani in an address to the ninth Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process conference in Tajikistan offered details on his government’s plan for a potential UN-led conference in Turkey expected to take place next month, and he reiterated the need to conduct peace efforts within the country’s constitution.
Ghani said that peace efforts require patience: “We envision three phases to this passage: making, building and sustaining peace, focused on achieving the agreed upon end state of a sovereign, democratic, united, neutral and connected Afghanistan.”
In the meantime, there are reports that the United States reportedly asked the Taliban to agree to the continued presence of American forces for three or six months in Afghanistan after the May 1 deadline, sources close to the Taliban have said.
According to the sources, the Taliban has so far not made their final decision about the request; however, the group has apparently insisted that first their 7,000 prisoners should be released, and names of Taliban officials should be dropped from the UN blacklist.
Under the US-Taliban peace agreement signed on February 2020, all US forces stationed in Afghanistan must leave the country by May 1. But sources close to the Taliban have said that the Biden administration has asked the Taliban to agree on the presence of the US forces for another three or six months.
Nevertheless, the deputy head of the High Council of National Reconciliation, Assadullah Saadati, has said that the upcoming UN-led meeting on Afghanistan in Turkey will be a destiny-making conference.
“We will reach a conclusion and a settlement on the issue of Afghanistan at the Turkey conference,” said Saadati.
On Thursday, US President Joe Biden in his first press conference said it will be hard to meet the May 1 deadline for getting troops out of Afghanistan for "tactical reasons."
Asked if he envisioned US troops in Afghanistan a year from now, Biden said "I can't picture that being the case." He also said: "We will leave--the question is when we leave."
The Taliban warned that delay in American forces' presence in the country will be seen as a violation of the Doha agreement and that all future responsibility for the continuation of violence will be on those who violate the deal.