The success of talks underway in Qatar's capital Doha between the Taliban and Afghanistan's government is crucial to ending conflict in the war-torn country, Italy's deputy foreign minister Emanuela Del Re said on Tuesday.
"This is a decisive moment for Afghanistan: after decades of conflict and suffering, we finally have an opportunity to set the country back on a path to peace," Del Re said.
Del Re was addressing a Geneva conference for Afghanistan co-hosted by Finland's government and the United Nations, at which the European Union, the United States and other donors pledged billions of dollars of new funds to salvage years of work to foster peace, stability and development in the country and to spur progress in the uncertain peace talks.
"The opening of negotiations in Doha can pave the way for peaceful coexistence in Afghanistan and restore peace and stability in the region as well," Del Re stated.
In order to achieve reconciliation, the peace process must be "fully inclusive and Afghan-led", Del Re said.
"Italy hopes that the negotiating parties will seize this historic opportunity," Del Re underlined.
The need to reach a ceasefire in Afghanistan is "a humanitarian obligation" she said.
As the Geneva conference took place on Tuesday a deadly roadside bomb exploded in the central Afghan city of Bamyan, killing at least 13 civilians and a traffic police officer, and wounding 45 others, according to officials.
Grim humanitarian conditions in Afghanistan are already severely strained and the COVID-19 pandemic risks exacerbating the situation further, adding another threat to the most vulnerable communities, Del Re warned.
Italy has renewed its commitment to finance cooperation programmes next year in Afghanistan - where over half the population lives on $1.14 a day - Del Re noted.
"Our initiatives will focus on key areas where Italian expertise can provide real added value: connectivity infrastructure development, rural development and support," she said.
Italy has been at the forefront of the international partnership to support Afghanistan for almost two decades, said Del Re. Protecting human rights, and especially the rights of women, children and minorities remain priorities for Italy, she said.
"We will also support the strengthening of health care, which has become vital for all countries due to the COVID-19 epidemic," Del Re concluded.
The Taliban and Afghan government began peace talks in Qatar on 12 September but no progress has been announced so far.