Taliban Sets Conditions For Istanbul Summit: Reports VOA

Kabul: The Taliban has set three pre-conditions for it to attend the Istanbul Summit scheduled to deliberate on the Afghan peace process, reported the VOA on Tuesday citing senior Taliban leaders.

The conditions set by the Taliban are that the conference must be short; the agenda should not include decision-making on critical issues; and the Taliban delegation should be low level, a senior Taliban leader told VOA Tuesday. “Our leadership has proposed that the Istanbul meeting should not be longer than three days,” said the leader on the condition of anonymity.

The Istanbul conference had been proposed by the US in April and would be jointly hosted by the UN, Turkey and Qatar. However, the Taliban had refused to attend it and then, the conference got postponed till after Eid. The conference is scheduled to have various stakeholders participate in it, including the Taliban, the Afghan government, and regional countries in order to give momentum to the peace talks underway between the Taliban and an official Afghan government team in Doha.

A Taliban delegation attended one such conference in Moscow but refused to attend the conference in Turkey, saying they were deliberating on this and other key issues.

The head of the Qatar-based Taliban negotiation team, Sheikh Abdul Hakeem, and several key members of the Taliban’s Qatar office, traveled to the region to consult with the group’s chief, Sheikh Hibatullah Akhundzada, and some members of the Taliban leadership council. Hakeem was accompanied by Mullah Fazil, Mullah Shireen and Mullah Abdul Manan, all negotiation team members. They also are all members of the Rehbari Shura (leadership council). Those consultations, according to the Taliban leader, went on for a month and concluded last week.

Afghan media reported the deliberations were being conducted in Pakistan, where according to the Afghan government, most of the Taliban leadership are living. Pakistan says it is using its influence on the Taliban to help the peace efforts in Afghanistan.

“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 said.

The leader, who was privy to internal consultations, did not give details as to who will represent the Taliban. The spokesman for the Afghan team, Nader Nadery, said their side was unaware of this development. “Nothing officially has been shared with us yet,” Nadery said in response to a query.

The US had proposed a 10-day meeting in Istanbul so that the Taliban and Afghan government team could resolve their differences and then either make some critical decisions toward peace-making or strive for a breakthrough in otherwise deadlocked talks.

The Taliban leader said their senior leadership did not want Istanbul to be a decision-making platform, and they did not want a specific agenda for the meeting.

In fact, members of both the negotiating teams met in Doha on Tuesday and discussed the Afghan peace process.

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