The Taliban say it cannot join the US-backed peace program in Turkey

The Taliban say it cannot join the US-backed peace program in Turkey

(Bloomberg) - The Afghan Taliban has said it cannot attend a peace conference in Istanbul on April 16 aimed at brokering a political deal between the country and Taliban militants.

"Our current position is that we cannot participate in the conference during this date, although the Istanbul conference is still under consideration," said Mohammad Naeem, a spokesman for the Islamic Group, without elaborating.

The conference was expected to sign a political agreement between the Afghan government and the Taliban to pave the way for a roadmap that could help end the 20-year war. It was to be a UN-led peace program backed by the United States, which wants to withdraw the remaining 2,500 troops after any political settlement between the Afghans.

The Afghan government has drafted a peace agreement that has been integrated under a US offer to bring together the Taliban and other political stakeholders and discuss changes in President Ashraf Ghani's administration. An interim government was proposed. The future of the country is also part of this proposal.

During a four-day visit ending Monday, US Special Envoy for Reconciliation Zalmai Khalilzad called on Afghan leaders to speed up the peace process and discuss preparations for the Istanbul Conference.

Delegations from the US, Russia, China, Iran and Pakistan were also expected to attend the Istanbul event.

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