US, EU call for immediate resumption of Afghan peace talks
The United States and the European Union called Friday for an immediate resumption of intra-Afghan talks, and condemned the Taliban for waging widespread attacks as foreign forces leave the country.
Representatives of Washington, the EU, NATO and other European countries met Thursday in Berlin as US and other foreign forces have begun their withdrawal.
US President Joe Biden has said the pullout will be completed by September 11, the 20th anniversary of the attacks that prompted the US invasion of Afghanistan.
The Berlin meeting concluded with a statement that "urged the immediate resumption, without pre-conditions, of substantive negotiations on the future of Afghanistan."
The talks should develop "compromise positions on power sharing that can lead to an inclusive and legitimate government."
"The process of the troop withdrawal must not serve as an excuse for the Taliban to suspend the peace process," it added.
The Kabul government and the Taliban began unprecedented talks in September in Qatar but they have struggled to make headway.
Turkey was scheduled to hold an Afghanistan conference in late April but it was postponed indefinitely because the Taliban declined to attend. They were protesting a delay in the US withdrawal, which Donald Trump had initially set for May 1.
Since foreign troops started pulling out of Afghanistan, government forces and the Taliban have engaged in fierce fighting, especially in Helmand province.
US warplanes have helped push back a Taliban offensive which forced thousands of Afghans to flee from their homes in the Lashkar Gah area of Helmand.
The Taliban have also seized a northern district and, in southern Kandahar province, taken the second largest dam in the country after two months of combat.
The statement issued after the Berlin talks "strongly condemned the continued violence in Afghanistan for which the Taliban are largely responsible."
It also called on the Taliban to "stop their undeclared spring offensive."
"Any Taliban attacks on our troops during this period will be met with a forceful response," the statement said.