Turkey has announced that it is postponing a much-anticipated Afghan peace conference in Istanbul until the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
“We thought that it would be beneficial to postpone it …We consulted Qatar, the US and the UN and decided to hold it after Ramadan and Eid festivities,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told the Haberturk news channel, adding there is “no need to hurry” after the recent decision by the US to withdraw its troops.
The Eid al-Fitr holiday is due to follow Ramadan, which ends this year in mid-May.
The international conference, deemed essential for the war-torn country’s future amid the withdrawal of foreign troops and escalating violence, was scheduled to be held from April 24 until May 4 in the Turkish metropolis.
“The conference would be meaningless without the Taliban joining. At the moment, we decided to postpone it since there is no clarity about the formation of the delegations and participation…The aim is not to initiate alternative talks to Doha but to contribute to the process. Hosting the meeting together in Istanbul will be Turkey, Qatar and the UN,” he said.
Cavusoglu underlined that Turkey made efforts to conduct the meeting before May 1 as US forces were initially supposed to be completely withdrawn from Afghanistan by that day.
Last week, US President Joe Biden announced that the withdrawal of all its forces would begin on May 1 in line with an agreement President Donald Trump’s administration made with the Taliban, but some US troops will remain to protect American diplomats.
Biden said American diplomatic and humanitarian efforts would continue in Afghanistan and that the US would support peace efforts between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
“It is time to end America’s longest war. It is time for American troops to come home,” he said in a televised address on April 14.
“Negotiations continue on a decision in NATO. As part of this decision, we are trying to outline how we can support Afghanistan as NATO allies after the Resolute Support Mission is over,” he said.
In his announcement of the withdrawal plan from Afghanistan, Biden said Washington would ask regional countries to “do more” to support Afghanistan, especially Pakistan, as well as Russia, China, India and Turkey.
“They all have a significant stake in the stable future for Afghanistan,” he said, adding that over the next few months, Washington will also determine what a continued US diplomatic presence in Afghanistan will look like, including how to ensure the security of the diplomats.
In line with Biden’s announcement, all American troops will depart from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of terrorist attacks in the US.
Noting that the Taliban and the state should agree on a permanent cease-fire and determine a political roadmap to avoid a new mission in the country, Cavusoglu recalled that intra-Afghan negotiations in Doha have been initiated for that purpose and thanked Qatar for its contributions.
The intra-Afghan talks began after a February 2020 agreement between the Taliban and the US that sets a timeline for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan in exchange for security guarantees.
Kabul has insisted on a permanent cease-fire, a demand so far rejected by the insurgents. The two sides have been engaged in the second round of talks in the Gulf city since Jan. 10.
Cavusoglu also emphasized that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will open the conference, which will be attended by 21 countries, three international organizations and two parties from Afghanistan.
Elections in Syria
Speaking on the Syrian regime’s presidential election, Cavusoglu said the election “conducted on its own” would not be legitimate, adding nobody would recognize it.
Pointing out that the Syrian regime does not want a political solution, he said that it should realize that there will be no military solution and that it should attach importance to the political process.
He also highlighted that only an election after the political process would be legitimate and underlined the need to make legal arrangements and regulate the records in the country.
“Supporting an illegitimate election contradicts our principles,” he added.
Syria has been ravaged by civil war since early 2011, when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protesters.
According to UN estimates, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and more than 10 million displaced.
Regarding the strained relations between Egypt and Turkey, Cavusoglu said that he and his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry worked on a roadmap during the United Nations General Assembly meeting in 2019 and agreed not to go against one another at the international level.
Stating that the relations will increase to the level of the foreign ministry, Cavusoglu added that the talks will be held at the level of deputy ministers in the first week of May.
Cavusoglu went on to say that he will also meet with Shoukry and talk about the appointment of ambassadors and bringing relations to a better point in the future.
Underlining that Turkey is against coups by principle, Cavusoglu said: “We have always been against the coup in Egypt. This was not because the Muslim Brotherhood was targeted. If [Egyptian President Abdel Fattah] al-Sisi had been overthrown in a coup, we would have sided with him too.”
Turkey and Egypt have recently released statements on bilateral ties, suggesting an expected restoration in relations after more than seven years of political estrangement.
The two countries exchanged positive signals on establishing contacts and dialogue, including the possibility of holding talks to demarcate their maritime borders in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Responding to a question on Turkey’s relations with Israel, Cavusoglu said, “If there is a change in the policy of the new government [of Israel], we’ll evaluate it.”
“If we were to appoint an ambassador to Israel, we would say that openly. We have made no such decision,” he added.
Commenting on Kosovo’s decision to open an embassy in Jerusalem, Cavusoglu said that Kosovo made the wrong decision by opening an embassy for the sake of recognition.