Taliban rejects participation in Turkey-hosted peace talks

The Taliban in Afghanistan is not willing to participate in peace talks in Turkey if they are held this week, Reuters cited the militant group as saying on Monday.

A 10-day conference was scheduled to begin on April 16, following efforts by the United States, with Turkey serving as host, to jump-start the process alongside the United Nations and Qatar.

“We can’t take part in Turkey’s conference on 16 April...and we already told Turkey this,” Reuters cited a text message from the Taliban spokesman Mohammed Naeem. They did offer that the Taliban may attend negotiations further down the line.

The Biden administration has spent weeks laying the groundwork for the conference to be held in Turkey as part of the peace process that began last year. However, Biden has already said that it would be “hard” to meet the deadline based on current conditions.

The U.S troops in Afghanistan are subject to a May 1 deadline to withdraw from the country after 20 years in return for the Taliban’s promise to ensure that terrorist groups never use Afghanistan again to plot attacks against the United States or its allies, Jessica Donati and Nancy A. Youssef wrote for the Wall Street Journal on Monday.

The conference has now been postponed until a later date, the correspondents said.

Turkey, both part of the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan since the ousting of Taliban in 2001 and and a country that has relations with all sides in the conflict, was considered a neutral location acceptable to all parties.

“We are fully ready to attend the conference, but if the other side doesn’t show up, there is no need to hold the conference,” Nader Nadery, a senior negotiator for the Afghan government, said.