Foreign missions in Kabul issue joint call for Taliban ceasefire

Fifteen diplomatic missions call for ‘urgent end’ to offensives, hours after Doha meeting failed to agree on a ceasefire.

An Afghan policeman keeps watch at a check post on the outskirts of Kabul [File: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters]

Fifteen diplomatic missions and the NATO representative in Kabul have joined hands 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 senior delegation of 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 rising 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.

“The Taliban’s offensive is in direct contradiction to their claim to support a negotiated settlement,” said the joint statement.

“It has resulted in loss of innocent Afghan lives, including through continued targeted killings, displacement of the civilian population, looting and burning of buildings, destruction of vital infrastructure, and damage to communication networks.”

Over the last few Eid holidays, the Taliban has called temporary ceasefires, saying it wanted to let Afghans spend them in peace.

This time there has been no such announcement, as the Taliban makes swift territorial gains in near-unprecedented levels of fighting nationwide.

The group has been emboldened as foreign forces near a complete withdrawal after 20 years of fighting, cutting a huge swathe across the country, capturing hundreds of districts, seizing key border crossings and encircling provincial capitals.

Monday’s statement by the 15 missions also condemned rights violations, such as efforts to shut schools and media outfits reported by media in areas recently captured by the Taliban, which has previously denied such assertions.

Afghan security forces at a checkpoint near the Spin Boldak border with Pakistan [M Sadiq/EPA]

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 on 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 group had agreed to an Eid ceasefire in exchange for the release of its prisoners.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies