Istanbul Summit on Afghanistan Postponed After Taliban Rejects Attending

Future talks on hold under after Eid al-Fitr

Long awaited as a key for trying to kickstart the Afghan peace process, the Istanbul summit was finally scheduled for next week, but is now being postponed indefinitely, with the Taliban having refused to attend.

The Taliban had been set for the conference not so long ago, but are now objecting because the US reneged on the May 1 pullout date, and won’t return to the talks unless the US changes that.

Officials indicate that they’re postponing the summit until some time after Eid al-Fitr, which is in mid-May, and will try to get the Taliban to participate after that. The Taliban are reportedly keen on a prisoner release deal to get them back to the table.

The summit was to be sponsored by the UN, Turkey, and Qatar. The Afghan government has been reviewing various peace proposals of its own to take to the conference, while President Ghani has urged them to focus chiefly on his proposal.

The Taliban has warned the conference can’t just be a “political spectacle” for the benefit of the US. The US is also bringing a proposal to the conference, if and when it happens, encouraging a ceasefire in Afghanistan and a new interim government featuring government and Taliban figures preparing for new, free elections.

This might’ve gone much more smoothly in early April, before the US officially backed off May 1, as the Taliban was still on board with talks. Turkey, however, kept balking at different dates, and the first date set was announced a couple of days before it began, leading the Taliban to say they didn’t have time to arrange travel. By the time they came up with this new date, the US had made its changes, and the Taliban changed their minds.

There seems to be hope that talks could work some disagreements out, even if the US has made them harder to hold. They may need to offer an incentive to get everyone to the table, but once they do, there’s still hope for a deal to be had.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.