Turkey has pledged to help an Afghan body tasked with seeking reconciliation with the Taliban in return for them laying down arms, a joint statement released by Turkey’s foreign ministry said on Saturday.
Ankara made the pledge in talks with Burhanuddin Rabbani, the head of Afghanistan’s High Council For Peace (HCP) and former president, who visited Turkey last week.
“The government of Turkey recognizes the High Peace Council as a leading Afghan body to coordinate Afghan peace and reconciliation efforts and stands ready to fully support its initiatives and efforts,” the statement by Rabbani and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said.
“Both Afghanistan and Turkey will work in consultation and cooperation with all concerned parties in promoting the peace process in order to ensure successful outcomes,” it said.
Rabbani held “extensive” talks with Davutoglu during his four-day visit, and met also with Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, it said.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai established the HCP last year to seek talks with the Taliban in return for them laying down their arms and accepting the Constitution.
The Taliban have publicly rejected the peace overtures.
During a visit to Istanbul in December, Karzai spoke of suggestions that the Taliban open a representation office in Turkey or another impartial country “to facilitate reconciliation” in Afghanistan, saying he would be happy if Turkey could provide such a venue.
Gul said at the time he was not aware of such suggestions, but stressed that Turkey “will do anything that would contribute to stability and security” in the conflict-torn country.
Afghanistan has been in the grip of a deadly insurgency waged by remnants of the Taliban since their regime was toppled in a US-led invasion in 2001.
There are around 140,000 international troops in the country, including a Turkish contingent, but they are due to start limited withdrawals from July with the Afghan police and army scheduled to take full control of security by 2014.