United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Tuesday for an "immediate, unconditional ceasefire" in Afghanistan to create a conducive environment for Doha peace talks with the Taliban.
"An inclusive process, in which women, young people, and victims of conflict are meaningfully represented, offers the best hope of sustainable peace," Guterres told an Afghanistan conference in Geneva. "Progress toward peace will contribute to the development of the entire region, and is a vital step towards the safe, orderly, and dignified return of millions of displaced Afghans."
Top officials including the UN secretary-general and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were taking part in the largely virtual pledging conference for Afghanistan on Tuesday, the latest effort to drum up aid and support for a country where Taliban fighters are making inroads against the government.
The gathering in Geneva, co-hosted by Finland, was expected to draw diplomats, civil society advocates, and international organizations from over 70 countries in the first such event in four years.
"Today is the day to reaffirm our solidarity with the people of Afghanistan," said Tatiana Valovaya, the head of the UN office in Geneva that is co-hosting the conference.
The pledging conference, overshadowed in part by the COVID-19 pandemic, seeks to lay out objectives for the next four years for Afghanistan is expected to generate billions for the poor and insurrection-wracked nation.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani urged the international community to continue supporting Afghanistan on Tuesday even as he acknowledged that donors are likely to cut aid under the strain of Covid-19.
"The Covid-19 pandemic has thrown us all into a state of global uncertainty," Ghani said from Kabul.
"We are exceptionally grateful that at a time of such collective suffering... your commitment to Afghanistan remains strong.
"We ask our international partners to help us do more with less... Financial resources -- aid -- will continue to be critical to our growth for the foreseeable future."
The European Union pledged to maintain its commitment of 1.2 billion euros ($1.43 billion)to Afghanistan.
"In 2016, the EU showed its strong commitment to Afghanistan by pledging 1.2 billion euros over a four-year period," said Jutta Urpilainen, the European Commissioner in charge of International Partnerships.
"It is my pleasure to announce today that we are ready to keep this level of support for the next four years." ($1 = 0.8413 euros)