AT News

KABUL: The U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad has departed for Turkey and the region, the U.S. State Department said on Saturday, in a push to encourage Afghan parties to accelerate negotiations to end conflict in the country.

The State Department said in a statement that Khalilzad began the trip on Thursday.

“He will engage the two sides on their preparatory efforts for talks on a political settlement that produces a permanent ceasefire and a durable and just peace,” the State Department said, referring to the Afghan government and the Taliban.

Turkey is would host a conference on Afghan peace. Delegations from Afghan government and the Taliban already confirmed their participation in Instable Conference slated for an early April.

Turkey has great potential to step up the peace process in Afghanistan, and the upcoming peace talks in Istanbul slated for April will hopefully pave the way for a cease-fire first, then an agreement on fair and sustainable peace, according to Amir Mohammad Ramin, the Afghan ambassador to Turkey.

In an interview with Anadolu Agency, Ambassador Ramin commented on the centennial anniversary of Turkish-Afghan diplomatic relations and the peace process in Afghanistan.

The ambassador said his appointment to Turkey was a “conscious decision,” and he was excited to serve his country in the Turkish capital Ankara because he believed there was “enormous potential” to expand cooperation between the two countries sharing brotherly ties.

“In Afghanistan, every Afghan considers themselves a Turk by heart,” he said, adding that both ordinary Turkish citizens and officials had “very, very strong” emotion and sympathy towards Afghanistan. “I consider myself blessed to be in Turkey.”

“The history of Afghanistan and Turkey goes back to hundreds and even thousands of years but the diplomatic relations only 100 years. And this is actually the oldest diplomatic relations in the world because the United Nations’ establishment is much later. So, our relationship actually predates the establishment of the UN, and we are very proud of it,” he said.

According to the diplomat, both Mustafa Kemal Ataturk – the founder of Turkey – and former Afghan King Amanullah Khan significantly contributed to developing solid and positive bilateral relations.