FILE PHOTO: An Afghan policeman keeps watch at the check post on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan July 13, 2021. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
July 19, 2021
KABUL (Reuters) -Fifteen diplomatic missions and the NATO representative in Kabul joined hands on Monday to urge the Taliban to halt military offensives across Afghanistan, just hours after a peace meeting in Doha failed to agree on a ceasefire.
A delegation of senior Afghan leaders met the Taliban’s political leadership in the Qatari capital over the last two days, but a Taliban statement issued late on Sunday made no mention of a halt to Afghanistan’s escalating violence.
“This Eid al-Adha, the Taliban should lay down their weapons for good and show the world their commitment to the peace process,” the 15 missions and the NATO representative said, referring to Tuesday’s Muslim holiday in Afghanistan.
The joint statement was supported by Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, the European Union delegation, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Britain and the United States and NATO’s senior civilian representative.
Over the last few Eid holidays, the Taliban have called temporary ceasefires, saying they wanted to let Afghans spend them in peace.
This time there has been no such announcement, as the Taliban make swift territorial gains in near-unprecedented levels of fighting nationwide.
The insurgents have been emboldened as foreign forces near a complete withdrawal after 20 years of fighting.
Monday’s statement also condemned rights violations, such as efforts to shut schools and media outfits in areas recently captured by the Taliban, which has previously denied such assertions.
Meetings between Afghan leaders and the Taliban in Doha discussed ways to reach a political settlement to end the conflict, the chairman of Afghanistan’s high council for peace, Abdullah Abdullah, who was a part of the talks, said on Monday.
“We agreed to continue the talks, seek a political settlement to the current crisis, avoid civilian casualties, facilitate humanitarian assistance & medical supplies to tackle Covid-19 pandemic,” Abdullah said on Twitter.
A Taliban statement late Sunday night added: “Both sides agreed upon the need for expedition in the peace talks, in order to find a fair and permanent solution for the current issue in Afghanistan as soon as possible.”
Peace talks between Taliban and Afghan interlocutors started in September last year but have failed to make any progress.
The Taliban’s spokesman in Doha, Mohammed Naeem, also denied media reports that the insurgent group had agreed to an Eid ceasefire in exchange for the release of its prisoners.
(Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield, Abdul Qadir Sediqi and Orooj Hakimi; Writing by Gibran Peshimam; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)