A file photo of Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu holding a press conference in Ankara on August 11, 2020 (Photo: AFP)
Turkey plans to host an Afghan peace conference in Istanbul in April, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Friday, ahead of a deadline for a US troop withdrawal.
In a letter leaked to Afghan media, Secretary of State Antony Blinken encouraged Afghan leaders to consider a "new, inclusive government" and proposed that talks take place within weeks in Turkey to seal a peace deal with the Taliban.
Cavusoglu said Turkey considers itself "one of the most important actors in Afghanistan."
"We will do this (meeting) in coordination with brotherly Qatar," the Anadolu state news agency quoted Cavusoglu as saying in reference to a separate round of talks staged in Doha.
He added that Turkey intended to appoint a special envoy to the peace process.
"Both the Taliban and the negotiation delegation, meaning the government side, had asked us to host such a meeting before," Cavusoglu said.
The diplomatic push comes with US President Joe Biden completing a review on whether to abide by an agreement with the Islamist insurgents negotiated by former president Donald Trump to pull the final US troops out by May.
In his letter, Blinken said Washington feared the "security situation will worsen and the Taliban could make rapid territorial gains" if the United States ends its two-decade military involvement in Afghanistan.
Resuming first diplomatic contacts with Egypt since 2013
Turkey and Egypt have had their first diplomatic contacts since breaking off relations in 2013, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Friday.
The two regional powers have sparred over a range of issues, including the war in Libya where they backed rival sides.
Ties deteriorated after the ouster of the Ankara-backed Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.
Cavusoglu said earlier this month that Ankara was prepared to negotiate a new maritime agreement for the eastern Mediterranean with Cairo.
On Friday, he told Turkish state media that the two countries have had their first talks.
"We have had contacts both at the level of intelligence and foreign ministries with Egypt. Diplomatic-level contacts have started," the Anadolu state news agency quoted Cavusoglu as saying.
Anadolu quoted Cavusoglu as saying that a lack of trust was normal at the early stages of the discussion.
"For this reason, negotiations are taking place and continuing under a certain strategy, road map," he said.