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Sunday, May 16, 2021

Afghan peace talks to resume in January

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Warring factions have been negotiating since September in Doha, with peace talks facing hurdles that have delayed a resolution until now.

Ongoing peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban are now scheduled to resume in early January as the two sides take a break following almost four months of negotiations, Reuters reported on Monday.

Members of the Afghan government and the Taliban have now traveled back to Kabul after staying in Qatar, the country that has been mediating and hosting the talks.

“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.

Some media has been reporting that the talks will now possibly be moved to Afghanistan, supposedly at the request of the Afghan government.

Since September, both parties have struggled to reach an agreement over their differences. However, in recent days the negotiations appeared to move forward after the two warring factions eventually agreed on the rules for the talks.

The process in Qatar began after the Pentagon and the Taliban signed a deal back in February that committed the US to withdrawing its remaining 12,000 troops in exchange for Taliban security guarantees and a commitment by the group to engage in peace talks.

Despite this, US forces have continued to carry out attacks in Afghanistan, including an air strike that targeted Taliban fighters just last week. Washington described it as an attempt to protect government forces in Kandahar, adding that it was “a rare” intervention since their agreement with the group.

Read also: Qatar welcomes Afghan-Taliban progress after months of stalled peace talks

Recently, Qatar’s Ministry of Affairs (MOFA) announced that the Afghanistan-Taliban peace negotiations were ready to advance to the next stage after they both agreed on the rules for the talks.

“This important progress shows that the Afghan parties are serious and able to overcome differences and deal with difficult issues. What has been achieved today raises hope that they will succeed in reaching a political settlement to this conflict that has lasted for more than forty years,” the Qatari ministry said in a statement.

Some of the hurdles the talks faced included disagreements over the agenda, basic framework of discussions and religious interpretations.

There were also reports saying that the Taliban allegedly  pulled back from signing the peace agreements just moments before the breakthrough.

According to a Reuters report, the Taliban protested against the document’s reference to the government as that of the “Islamic Republic of Afghanistan”, they refuse to recognise this current government as a legitimate one.

Read also: Afghanistan, Taliban accept Qatar offer to mediate following escalations

A diplomat in Kabul told Reuters that the chief Afghan government negotiator was on the verge of signing the agreement as the “chief negotiator for the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan”, prompting objection from the Taliban.

“At this time, they continue to debate the preamble, in which some issues need further clarification” said Sediq Sediqqi, the spokesman for the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

Although the Taliban has yet to comment on recent developments, the movement said it was willing to negotiate with the opposing delegation without recognising it as the country’s government.

“We are ready to take the talks forward with the current team as Afghans; we don’t know them as a government team,” Zabihullah Mujahid, Taliban spokesman, told Reuters.

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