Negotiations brokered by the United States began in September, but progress has since slowed and violence has increased sharply.
Civilian casualties in Afghanistan have risen sharply since the start of peace talks between the government and the Taliban armed group last year, the United Nations said in a report calling for a ceasefire as negotiators met to the first time after weeks of inaction.
Afghan civilian casualties totaled 8,820 in 2020, according to the annual report of the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) released on Tuesday, a figure 15% lower than in 2019, but the authors noted with concern a sharp rise and historically high civilian casualties in the last three. month of the year – since the start of negotiations.
US-brokered peace talks – spelled out in a deal between the Taliban and the United States signed in February last year – began in September, but progress has since slowed and violence has escalated as uncertainty hangs over the withdrawal of international forces by May. initially predicted.
Last year “could have been the year of peace in Afghanistan. Instead, thousands of Afghan civilians perished, ”said Deborah Lyons, head of UNAMA, reiterating calls for a ceasefire that have been repeatedly rejected by the Taliban.
“Parties that refuse to consider a ceasefire must recognize the devastating consequences,” Lyons said.
On Tuesday, the Taliban reacted critically to the report, saying: “The concerns, specific information and exact details that we shared have not been addressed.”
The UN report said that for the first time since records began, deaths and injuries have escalated in the last three months of the year compared to the previous three months.
Losses in the fourth quarter increased 45% compared to the same period in 2019.
Most have been attributed to non-state actors, mainly the Taliban, and more than a fifth has been attributed to government forces.
A government spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The two sides said on Twitter that their chief negotiators met in Doha, Qatar, the site of the peace talks, on Monday evening, adding that the teams would continue to work on a program.
After a month-long hiatus over the New Year period, negotiators returned briefly to Doha before many senior Taliban leaders left to hold meetings in Russia and Iran.