ISTANBUL: Turkey said Tuesday an international peace conference on Afghanistan scheduled for April 24 in Istanbul has been postponed until mid-May.
“We decided to postpone the talks” until celebrations for the holy month of Ramadan end in mid-May, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told HaberTurk television in an interview.
The postponement comes after the US administration of President Joe Biden last week announced the withdrawal of all American forces from Afghanistan before this year’s 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
Turkey had first announced the conference, co-sponsored by the United Nations and Qatar, to run from April 24 to May 4.
But Cavusoglu said: “We believed it would be useful to postpone” after consultations with Doha, the UN and Washington.
“There’s no need to rush,” he added.
Ankara said the talks would be between representatives of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban.
Last week, the Taliban when contacted said the group had still not completed internal consultations over whether to attend the conference.
Cavusoglu said the postponement would give both sides time to prepare their list of names, referring to a “lack of clarity” over who would attend the conference.
Asked if the Taliban would join the talks, he said: “Of course. Would this conference have a meaning without the Taliban’s presence?”
The US is trying to add urgency to long-stalled peace talks ahead of its planned end to military involvement in Afghanistan which began in response to the 2001 terror attacks on Washington and New York.
Biden has pledged to remove the last American troops from Afghanistan — a force currently made up of around 2,500 personnel — within six months.
A leaked US State Department report said Washington wanted the Turkey conference to approve a plan to replace the present leadership of President Ashraf Ghani with an interim government involving the Taliban.
Before the postponement was announced, State Department spokesman Ned Price said “there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan, and only through a political settlement, and a comprehensive ceasefire, will we be able to support a resolution that brings security, stability, and prosperity to the people of Afghanistan.”
He said the Istanbul conference was “part of that broader effort, that broader engagement” towards a political settlement.