Afghan president calls for peace talks to be moved home

Published December 15, 2020
The next round of negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government should be held at home, President Ashraf Ghani said. — AP/File
The next round of negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government should be held at home, President Ashraf Ghani said. — AP/File

KABUL: The next round of negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government should be held at home, President Ashraf Ghani said on Monday, backing calls to move the talks from Qatar.

The warring sides have been engaged in direct talks since September at a luxury hotel in Doha, where the Taliban have their political office.

Negotiators from both sides on Saturday announced a pause in the talks until January 5, with the government delegation expected to return to Kabul this week to consult senior officials.

“We would prefer the second round of peace talks to take place inside Afghanistan,” Ghani told a cabinet meeting, his spokesman Sediq Sediqqi tweeted.

“The Afghan government is prepared to negotiate anywhere inside Afghanistan .... under a tent or out in the cold.

“It is not appropriate to insist on holding talks in luxurious hotels. It is necessary that the people see how the talks happen, which issues are focussed on and why.”.

Officials at Afghanistan’s National Security Council have also called for talks to be moved home.

The insurgents and Kabul side both said they had exchanged “preliminary lists of agenda items” to be covered when talks restart.

The negotiations had, until recently, been bogged down by disputes on the basic framework of discussions and religious interpretations.

But earlier this month both sides announced they were ready to proceed after a period of concerted diplomatic effort that saw outgoing United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visit both teams.

The talks follow a landmark troop withdrawal deal signed in February by the Taliban and Washington, which will see all foreign troops pulled out by next year.

Despite the talks, there has been a surge of violence in Afghanistan in recent months.

Peace talks between the Afghan government and Taliban insurgents will resume in early January as the warring sides take a break after reaching agreement on procedural ground rules for sustaining their dialogue to end the war.

Members of the Afghan government delegation said on Monday they would travel back to Kabul from Doha.

“We’re taking a break for now and will be ready to discuss the agenda when talks resume,” said a senior Afghan official overseeing diplomatic communications with the Taliban. Despite the peace process, violence in Afghanistan has not ended.

Published in Dawn, December 15th, 2020

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