The United States, Russia, China, and Pakistan have
jointly called on Afghanistan's warring sides to reach an immediate cease-fire and
specifically urged the Taliban not to pursue a spring offensive.
"At this turning point, our four countries call on the sides to hold talks and reach a peace agreement that will end more than four decades of war in Afghanistan," said a joint statement issued after the conclusion of one-day talks in Moscow Thursday.
The statement also said the four countries were committed to mobilizing political and economic support for Afghanistan once a peace settlement had been reached.
The Moscow conference on Afghanistan was attended by Russia, China, the United States, and Pakistan as well as representatives of the Government of Afghanistan, Afghanistan's High Council for National Reconciliation, prominent Afghan political figures, and representatives of the Taliban movement, as well as Qatar and Turkey as guests of honor.
The one-day gathering was the first of three planned international conferences ahead of a May 1 deadline for the final withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops from the country, a date fixed under a year-old agreement between the Trump administration and the Taliban, according to the Associated Press.
This is the first time Washington has sent a senior official to participate in Afghan peace negotiations convened by Russia. U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad's presence was seen as a sign of Washington's increasing effort to attract support among regional powers -- including China and Russia -- for its plans for Afghanistan.
The Moscow gathering will be followed by a meeting of regional players in Turkey next month.
In a statement issued after the talks, Russia, the U.S., China and Pakistan called on the warring parties to reduce the level of violence in the country and specifically urged the Taliban not to pursue a spring offensive.
"We urge participants in the intra-Afghan negotiations to engage immediately in discussions on fundamental issues to resolve the conflict, including the foundations of the future peaceful and stable Afghan state, the content of a political roadmap leading to an inclusive government, and the modalities of a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire."
Any peace agreement, they said, should "include protections for the rights of all Afghans, including women, men, children, victims of war, and minorities, and should respond to the strong desire of all Afghans for economic, social and political development including the rule of law."
The joint statement emphasized the four countries do not support the restoration of an Islamic emirate in Afghanistan like during the Taliban rule. "As stated in the UNSC resolution 2513 (2020), we do not support the restoration of the Islamic Emirate and we call on the Government of the Islamic Republic and the High Council for National Reconciliation to engage openly with their Taliban counterparts regarding a negotiated settlement."
The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan was established when the Taliban began their governance of Afghanistan in 1996 until the U.S. invasion in 2001.
Zamir Kabulov, Russian President Vladimir Putin's special envoy for Afghanistan, told reporters that the Afghan participants in the talks showed willingness to negotiate peace and they will have more meetings in Moscow.
"We hope that today's talks will help achieve progress in the inter-Afghan talks," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at the start of the meeting.
(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).