The Taliban said Monday that it will not take part in a peace conference with the Afghan government slated for Friday in Istanbul. "Our current position is that we can't participate in the conference," the Islamic group's spokesman Mohammad Naeem told Bloomberg in a text message. He did add, however, that future participation is still "under our consideration."
The two sides were expected to reach a political agreement in Istanbul that would kick off efforts to end Afghanistan's 20-year conflict. Per Bloomberg, the government "has prepared a draft peace agreement that has been subsumed within the framework of the U.S. offer" to replace President Ashraf Ghani's government with an interim government (although Ghani is opposed to stepping down). An immediate cease-fire is reportedly included in the proposal.
The U.S. helped facilitate the United Nations-led event, hoping it would clear the way for the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan ahead of a May 1 deadline set in a previous agreement with the Taliban. Delegates from the U.S., Russia, China, Iran, and Pakistan, were also scheduled to be at the conference, as well, Bloomberg notes. Read more at Bloomberg.