Anger and shock among students after 22 students killed in attack as Afghan gov’t announces day of mourning.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for an “immediate, unconditional ceasefire” in Afghanistan to create a conducive environment for Doha peace talks with the Taliban.
“An inclusive process, in which women, young people and victims of conflict are meaningfully represented, offers the best hope of sustainable peace,” Guterres told an Afghanistan donors conference in the Swiss city of Geneva.
“Progress toward peace will contribute to the development of the entire region, and is a vital step towards the safe, orderly and dignified return of millions of displaced Afghans.”
The Taliban and Afghan government have been engaged in peace talks in Qatar since September 12 but no progress has been announced so far.
Guterres’s call came in a virtual address to a global donor conference in Geneva on Tuesday, with Afghanistan beset by violence between the Taliban and government forces, rampant corruption and an imminent withdrawal of US forces.
Meanwhile, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani urged the international community to continue supporting Afghanistan on Tuesday even as he acknowledged that donors are likely to cut aid under the strain of COVID-19.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown us all into a state of global uncertainty,” Ghani said from Kabul.
“We are exceptionally grateful that at a time of such collective suffering … your commitment to Afghanistan remains strong.
“We ask our international partners to help us do more with less … Financial resources – aid – will continue to be critical to our growth for the foreseeable future.”
Donor nations meet every four years to pledge aid to Afghanistan, which is almost entirely reliant on foreign assistance despite years of promised reforms and attempts to grow the economy.
But the 2020 donor conference could see less aid pledged as countries battle to recover from the devastating effect of COVID-19.
The previous 2016 conference in Brussels raised $15.2bn.
Concerns are high that gains made in the past 20 years, especially in the area of women’s rights, could be lost as the Taliban unleashes further violence.
“I want to be very clear that our commitment to negotiations with the Taliban remains firm,” Ghani said.
But he added that violence had “skyrocketed” since a US-Taliban deal in February paved the way for the withdrawal of foreign forces by May 2021.
“Plans to achieve peace did not materialise as imagined. Suffering and killing continue to plague Afghans on a daily basis. It is unbearable,” he said.
Earlier, the European Union (EU) foreign policy chief also called for an immediate ceasefire in the war-torn country.
Josep Borrell, EU high representative, told the Geneva conference: “A ceasefire should not be an outcome of the (peace) process, it should accompany the process from today …”
The EU pledged to maintain its commitment of 1.2 billion euros ($1.43bn) to Afghanistan.