Taliban lays down conditions to attend Istanbul conference
The Taliban has said it will attend the U.S-proposed peace conference in Turkey on three conditions – the conference must be short, the agenda must not include decision-making on critical issues and the Taliban delegation should be low level.
Afghan Voice Agency (AVA)_A senior Taliban leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told VOA: “Our leadership has proposed that the meeting should not be longer than three days.”
Another senior Taliban leader also confirmed the news when approached by VOA.
The Istanbul Conference, designed to give momentum to stalled talks, was proposed by the U.S. in April and was expected to be held in early May. However, the conference failed to materialize as the Taliban refused to attend.
VOA reported that the head of the Qatar-based Taliban negotiation team, Abdul Hakeem, and several key members of the Taliban’s Qatar office, met with the group’s leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada, and some members of the Taliban leadership council.
According to VOA, Hakeem was accompanied by Mullah Fazil, Mullah Shireen and Mullah Abdul Manan, all negotiation team members and that the consultations with Akhundzada lasted a month before concluding last week.
Earlier reports indicated the deliberations were conducted in Pakistan where the Taliban leadership is believed to live.
VOA reported that the Taliban’s decision on the Istanbul conference is a result of Pakistani and , among other countries.
“The Taliban leaders were basically not in favor of participation in the Istanbul conference, but they said they will attend with conditions and on request of Pakistan and Qatar,” the Taliban leader told VOA.
The leader, who was privy to internal consultations, did not give details as to who will represent the Taliban, VOA reported.
Nader Nadery, from the Afghan Republic’s negotiating team, told VOA that their side was unaware of this development.
He said nothing had been officially shared with them.
According to VOA, the United States, Turkey, and Afghanistan had proposed that at least one or more senior leaders other than the representatives of the Taliban negotiation team in Doha lead the Taliban team in Istanbul. VOA reported that officials from these countries have said they do not believe the Qatar office envoys, including Mullah Baradar, have the authority to make decisions in the talks.
Initially, the U.S. proposed a 10-day meeting so the Taliban and Afghan Republic’s team could resolve differences and make some critical decisions.
But VOA reported that according to the Taliban leader, the group’s senior leadership did not want Istanbul to be a decision-making platform, and they did not want a specific agenda for the meeting.
VOA also reported that the Taliban leader said the group would not declare a ceasefire at the moment and that this issue would not be declared during -Afghan_negotiations.