Turkey has great potential to step up the peace process in Afghanistan, and the upcoming peace talks in Istanbul slated for April will hopefully pave the way for a cease-fire first, then an agreement on fair and sustainable peace, according to Amir Mohammad Ramin, the Afghan ambassador to Turkey.
In an interview with Anadolu Agency, Ambassador Ramin commented on the centennial anniversary of Turkish-Afghan diplomatic relations and the peace process in Afghanistan.
The ambassador said his appointment to Turkey was a “conscious decision,” and he was excited to serve his country in the Turkish capital Ankara because he believed there was “enormous potential” to expand cooperation between the two countries sharing brotherly ties.
“In Afghanistan, every Afghan considers themselves a Turk by heart,” he said, adding that both ordinary Turkish citizens and officials had “very, very strong” emotion and sympathy towards Afghanistan. “I consider myself blessed to be in Turkey.”
“The history of Afghanistan and Turkey goes back to hundreds and even thousands of years but the diplomatic relations only 100 years. And this is actually the oldest diplomatic relations in the world because the United Nations’ establishment is much later. So, our relationship actually predates the establishment of the UN, and we are very proud of it,” he said.
According to the diplomat, both Mustafa Kemal Ataturk – the founder of Turkey – and former Afghan King Amanullah Khan significantly contributed to developing solid and positive bilateral relations.
Afghan peace process and Turkish role
Commenting on the peace process in Afghanistan, the ambassador said: “The government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is strongly committed to a peace process that leads to just and sustainable peace in Afghanistan. We welcomed any initiative in support of the peace process.”
Ramin went on to say that the first of these initiatives took place in February 2018 when President Ashraf Ghani offered unconditional peace talks with the Taliban through a conference and added: “Since then, we have continually called for dialogue as the best way to end the violence ongoing in Afghanistan.”
One of the peace initiatives was the talks in Doha, Qatar, and the Afghan government fully supported the peace process and actively participated. However, according to the Afghan diplomat, the initiative later turned into a stalemate, and no progress was made.
Thanks to Turkey’s strong historical and cultural ties and mutual trust with his country, the Afghan ambassador believes that the Ankara government has “great potential” to help progress the peace process.
“We considered Turkey as the most relevant, the new and most relevant actor given, given the mutual trust, to host this important event that we all hope to be able to lead to cessation of violence, and ultimately, [to]sustainable and just peace of Afghanistan,” he said.
“We haven’t had progress in Doha. And I think having the Istanbul meeting, we expect, would help overcome and address this stalemate. And I believe that Turkey will facilitate the environment for the intra-Afghan talks to continue,” he added.
Emphasizing that Turkey had constructive and strong ties not only with Afghanistan but also with regional countries as well as with the UN Security Council member countries, he further noted that such relations could help the peace process gain momentum. “The key expectation is that Istanbul will hopefully lead to a sustainable and just peace,” he said.
“But we are, obviously, realistic. We know that there are challenges, there are difficulties. We know that our friends in Turkey will do their best to deliver upon these expectations of the Afghan people.”
Although the peace initiatives, including those in Doha and Moscow, did not entirely eliminate the violence in Afghanistan, the Taliban did not target foreign forces in the country as part of its deal with the US, but it still continued to kill Afghan civilians, according to the ambassador.
He continued: “So the Doha agreement did not deliver the key expectation of the Afghans, which was the cessation of violence. I think the first and important expectation is to see a cessation of violence, end the violence in Afghanistan. And the second important expectation is that this will preserve the gains that Afghanistan has achieved over the past 20 years. These are democratic gains. And the core of this democratic gain is the will of the people.”
Peace talks in Istanbul
Asked about the US motives to hold peace talks in Istanbul, Turkey, and whether this would have any advantages to resolve the conflict in Afghanistan, the ambassador said both the Afghan nation and the government sought to have the peace talks in Turkey, and Afghan officials requested Turkish counterparts to play a more active role in support of the peace process amid discussions in Ankara.
“Along with the request and expectation from the international community, Turkey is also delivering on the expectation of the Afghan government and the people of the country. And it’s a very positive role and we welcome this very warmly,” he said.
The details of the peace talks in Istanbul are yet to be completed, but the Afghan president clearly demonstrated his will to take part at the meeting in Istanbul if the Taliban participates in the meeting at the leader-level, according to the envoy, who said foreign ministers, as well as senior representatives of the UN and EU, will also be present at the meeting.
Also, he said the official date was still not set, but the related authorities are working to make sure the gathering is held sometime by mid-April.
Turkish move to appoint special envoy for Afghanistan
Afghanistan welcomed the Turkish government’s decision to appoint a special envoy for Afghanistan, the ambassador said, adding this act showed that Ankara had “a strong commitment to not only Afghanistan’s peace process, peace, and stability but also regional peace and stability.”
Underlining that peace in Afghanistan meant stability in the region that would benefit everybody, including Turkey, the Afghan envoy said the elimination of violence in the war-weary country would halt irregular migration and pave the way for economic cooperation in the region stretching from Turkey to Caucasus, Central Asia, and Pakistan.
Responding to a question on prioritization of conflicting sides in Afghanistan, with the Afghan government focusing on stopping the violence and the Taliban pointing to a transitory government, Ramin said:
“So one very key principle, not only in the government, but the people in Afghanistan want to see preserved and protected, is the will of the people. And that is best reflected through an electoral process or through elections. So elections is a must.”
“Now, we have to have agreement firstly, and then discuss the details of how this agreement can be implemented. We cannot go to a scenario situation …, whatever you call, it transition or interim, without having the prospect and clarity on what is going to be [in]this agreement,” the envoy added.
* Writing by Ali Murat Alhas.