UN urges Afghans to hold 'direct talks' to seek peace

United Nations (United States) (AFP) –


The UN envoy to Afghanistan on Tuesday urged all Afghan groups to open direct talks to end the country's long conflict after President Donald Trump shut down US negotiations with Taliban insurgents.

Tadamichi Yamamoto said that violence threatened Afghanistan's presidential elections scheduled for September 28 and called on the Taliban to condemn all poll-related attacks.

On Monday, Trump made a surprise announcement saying US peace talks with the Taliban were "dead" and that he was ramping the war back up after canceling a secret meeting with the insurgents at his weekend retreat.

Speaking at a Security Council debate, Yamamoto said: "The events of recent days and weeks have shown, more than ever, the urgency of finding a political settlement.

"Conflict can only be resolved by direct talks between Afghan people. It is imperative therefore that direct talks between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban commence as soon as possible."

He added that attacks against polling centers and civilians participating in election preparations were "unacceptable," and he warned of the risk of low voter turnout and fraud.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's office has cautiously saluted the "sincere efforts of its allies" after Trump cancelled the unprecedented -- and separate -- meetings with the Taliban and Ghani at Camp David outside Washington.

Trump's move ended a nearly year-long diplomatic process led by veteran US diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad, who held nine rounds of talks with the Taliban, mostly in Qatar.

Many Afghans had expressed deep unease over the US talks, seeing them as America selling out in a bid to end 18 years of gruelling war.

The UNAMA mission to Afghanistan expires in mid-September and, according to diplomats, efforts to extend it have hit trouble over China's push for the new mandate to include mention of Beijing's Belt and Road global infrastructure project.

"This mandate is too important at this moment to have one Security Council member deny consensus for reasons having nothing to do with UNAMA," said US acting Ambassador Jonathan Cohen.

Diplomats say China has effectively threatened to veto an extension over the issue.