By Dildar Baykan

NEW YORK (AA) – Praising increased engagement from the international community to maintain peace in Afghanistan, a senior Turkish diplomat warned on Thursday that the world could not afford a power vacuum in the conflict-ravaged country.

Feridun Sinirlioglu, Turkey’s ambassador to the UN, applauded Afghanistan's diverse achievements in the last two decades in fields including security, democracy, governance, economy and human rights.

"The security situation remains volatile, with a consistently high number of incidents," Sinirlioglu said, adding that stability would depend on improved security.

He emphasized that Turkey would continue to stand with the Afghan people as it transitioned in security as well as development.

Sustainable peace can only be possible with genuine reconciliation, he said, stressing that all segments of Afghan society should participate and contribute to efforts towards peace.

"Afghan people cannot sacrifice the achievements they made at important costs," he said.

Lauding the change in status for Afghan women since 2001, Sinirlioglu stressed they were now "rightly adamant in calling for a peace process that protects their gains."

"Ensuring women’s participation in elections, peace negotiations, and overall engagement in governance and government will help preserve gains that we have made to date," he said.

Afghanistan can only achieve lasting peace and stability with the support of neighbors and regional powers, Sinirlioglu said, adding that the continued constructive engagement of the international community was essential to create a conducive, genuine atmosphere of cooperation.

He underlined the region’s readiness to resolve outstanding issues, and to transform common problems into mutual benefit.

The ambassador said Ankara would host senior officials from "all regional countries and international stakeholders" in the process at next week’s Heart of Asia – Istanbul meeting, a platform he added aimed to improve peace, stability and economy of Afghanistan and its neighbors.

Stressing the importance of inclusive elections and of a "truly representative peace process", Sinirlioglu said this would be a "litmus test" for all who are engaged in the process.

He added that foreign parties should take care not to give the impression that the international community is disengaging in the event of a withdrawal of forces from the country.

"We can not afford leaving Afghanistan in a power vacuum," he said.

The world should support the Afghan government to make peace with the Taliban, he said, while protecting democracy and individual rights, and added that Afghans' desire for peace and democracy should prevail.

An Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process is the core to achieving long-lasting peace in the country, Sinirlioglu said, adding that Turkey would continue to remain in solidarity with the Afghan people and contribute to a secure, stable and prosperous Afghanistan, as it has been for decades.

* Writing by Maimaitiming Yilixiati

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