Taliban, Afghan negotiators set ground rules to safeguard peace talks

Published October 7, 2020
Delegates attend talks between the Afghan government and Taliban insurgents in Doha, Qatar on September 12, 2020. — Reuters/File
Delegates attend talks between the Afghan government and Taliban insurgents in Doha, Qatar on September 12, 2020. — Reuters/File

KABUL: Taliban and Afghan peace negotiators have agreed on a code of conduct to safeguard against the risk of any breakdown in talks that began last month in Qatar to bring an end to decades of war, three official sources said on Tuesday.

The breakthrough was achieved with the help of US officials, as the two sides drew up 19 ground rules that their negotiators should observe during talks, the sources said. While the talks have been taking place in Qatar’s capital Doha, scores of Afghan soldiers and Taliban fighters have been killed in clashes and suicide attacks in which dozens of civilians have also died in recent weeks.

“Firming up code of conduct was extremely crucial as it proves that both sides are willing to continue talks even as we see that violence has not reduced on the ground,” said one senior Western diplomat.

After this news agency reported that the parties had set the ground rules, the Afghan government negotiating team tweeted that the report was “incorrect”, without elaborating.

When asked about the tweet, a senior official involved in the talks on the government side said officials objected to any implication that a formal agreement had been reached, but did not deny some ground rules had been set.

Official sources involved in the peace process said the breakthrough came during a trip on Monday by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to Qatar’s capital Doha. Ghani held talks there with Qatari leaders as well as US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and the commander of US and Nato troops in Afghanistan, General Austin Miller.

The intra-Afghan talks are part of a landmark deal signed between the United States and the Taliban in February.

Under the deal, foreign forces will leave Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for counter-terrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which agreed to negotiate a permanent ceasefire and a power-sharing formula with the Afghan government.

Diplomats had said that the talks got off to a difficult start, with disagreements over how the Hanafi Islamic code could be used to guide negotiations and on whether the deal signed between the United States and the Taliban in February should be the basis for the talks, as demanded by the Taliban.

The three sources said the delegations were putting those differences to one side to move forward and agree on an agenda, but would work on resolving these issues during negotiations.

“The ground rules will serve as a foundation as both sides are making an effort to prevent a collapse,” said a second senior official in Doha overseeing the talks.

A ceasefire is a top priority for the Afghan officials and the western diplomats who are facilitating these talks.

However, some analysts say the Taliban would not agree to a comprehensive ceasefire yet, since violence and clashes with Afghan forces give them leverage at the negotiation table.

Published in Dawn, October 7th, 2020

Opinion

Last call
Updated 23 Sep 2021

Last call

The exchange rate alone can no longer absorb the full impact of the deterioration in the current account.
Appeasing terrorists
Updated 22 Sep 2021

Appeasing terrorists

The policy of appeasement has not worked in the past and it certainly will not work now.

Editorial

23 Sep 2021

Dialogue, at last

SANITY appears to have at last prevailed in the matter of electoral reforms. On Tuesday, at a meeting of National...
AUKUS controversy
Updated 23 Sep 2021

AUKUS controversy

Instead of flexing its military muscle, the Western bloc needs to engage China at the negotiating table.
23 Sep 2021

Provocative act

MAULANA Abdul Aziz appears to relish provoking the state — and getting away with it. For the third time since Aug...
22 Sep 2021

Interest rate hike

THE State Bank’s decision to raise its key interest rate by 25bps to 7.25pc underpins its acceptance of emerging...
PCB chief’s challenge
Updated 22 Sep 2021

PCB chief’s challenge

The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan has propelled fears of regional insecurity.
22 Sep 2021

No need for secrecy

THE government should not make a mountain out of the Toshakhana molehill. That would only encourage speculation of...