Turkey ready for mediator role in Afghan peace talks: ruling AK Party

Turkey is ready to take part in mediation efforts for peace in Afghanistan and the region, the country’s ruling party spokesperson said Tuesday.

“Afghanistan is a very important country for us,” Ömer Çelik, spokesperson for the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), told reporters in the capital Ankara after a meeting of the party’s Central Executive Board.

To a question about ongoing intra-Afghan peace talks, Çelik said: “Turkey is ready to be involved in all kinds of mediation efforts for peace in Afghanistan and the region.”

On Sunday, the Afghan government’s representative said during talks with the Taliban in Qatar that the government was evaluating a proposed peace plan submitted by the U.S. envoy.

Speaking at an event at the Afghanistan Institute for Strategic Studies in Kabul, Nader Nadery said the plan was a proposal to end the war and bring peace to Afghanistan.

According to Nadery, the government is evaluating the plan to see if it would help the country or lead to another long-term disaster.

This came after a diplomatic letter leaked by Afghanistan’s Tolo News suggested that the U.S. would ask Turkey to host the peace talks.

Peace negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban insurgents in the Qatari capital of Doha have largely stalled as U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration reviews how to handle the peace process, including troop withdrawal.

The U.S. is set to withdraw from Afghanistan in May, but a surge in fighting has sparked concerns that a speedy exit from the country may unleash greater chaos as peace talks between the Kabul government and Taliban continue to stall.

The intra-Afghan talks began after a February 2020 agreement between the Taliban and the U.S. that set a timeline for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan in exchange for security guarantees.

Ankara has recently voiced that Turkey will continue supporting Afghan security. Turkey has been contributing to the security of Afghanistan and will keep its presence in the country as long as its Afghan brothers demand it, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said last week, marking the 100th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The Turkish Parliament in late 2020 approved a motion to extend the deployment of Turkish troops in Afghanistan for 18 months as part of NATO’s support mission in the war-torn country. The initial legislation took effect on Jan. 6, 2019, that allowed the Turkish government to send troops to Afghanistan to support the NATO-led mission Resolute Support. After ending the 17-year combat mission in Afghanistan in 2018, the mission has evolved into training and advising the nascent Afghan security forces.

Around 12,000 foreign troops from 28 NATO allies and 14 other partner nations agreed to support the NATO mission in Afghanistan. The legislation that was first passed in 2015 also grants the government authority to permit foreign army personnel to be transported to and from Afghanistan through Turkey.

‘Greece to be left alone with Turkey in region’

Çelik also rejected Greece’s welcoming response to a decision adopted at an Arab League meeting of foreign ministers that accused Turkey of increasing tensions in the Caucasus and Mediterranean regions. Turkey on Friday “completely rejected” the decision.

He accused Athens of producing aggression against Turkey in tactical alliances.

He urged Athens to not rely on the permanent backing of other countries that have “taken it along to arm wrestle with Turkey.”

“When (those countries) depart tomorrow, Greece will again be left alone with Turkey in this region,” he said.

Çelik went on to say that Greece should know that there is nothing else to make them feel safe as a country other than a fair agreement with Turkey.

Turkish National Defense Ministry stated Monday that Greece continued to deploy naval vessels to demilitarized islands in the eastern Aegean Sea, sending assault boats to the island of Kastellorizo (Megisti-Meis) just a few miles from Turkey.

Tensions have been running high for months in the Eastern Mediterranean as Greece has disputed Turkey’s rights to energy exploration. Turkey, which has the longest continental coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean, has rejected the maritime boundary claims of Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration, stressing that these excessive claims violate the sovereign rights of both Turkey and Turkish Cypriots. Last year, Turkey sent several drillships to explore energy resources in the Eastern Mediterranean, asserting its own rights in the region as well as those of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).

Turkish leaders have repeatedly stressed that Ankara is in favor of resolving all outstanding problems in the region through international law, good neighborly relations, dialogue and negotiation. Yet, Turkey has also criticized the EU’s stance on the Eastern Mediterranean conflict, calling on the bloc to adopt a fair attitude regarding the dispute and give up on favoring Greece under the pretext of EU solidarity. Instead of opting to solve problems with Turkey through dialogue, Greece has, on several occasions, refused to sit at the negotiating table and opted to rally the EU to take a tougher stance against Ankara.