Afghan officials continue negotiating with the Taliban and other factions as Qatar continues its mediation.
Afghan government representatives and Taliban members have convened in Doha for the commencement of peace talks that would end 19 years of war and conflict. The talks come six months after the signing of a Qatari-mediated deal that mapped out a schedule for negotiations.
Also attending the peace talks were US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Qatar’s Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, Abdullah Abdullah, chairperson of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation, and Taliban deputy leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.
“I hope you agree with me that today we must overcome the past and its pains … and focus on the future and the hope it brings us while surely drawing lessons from the past,” said Al-Thani.
Al-thani also emphasised the importance of having an open mind during the talks and for all sides to “rise above all forms of divisions”.
For his part, Baradar stated that the peace talks might face some difficulties but remained optimistic.
“We want Afghanistan to be a free, independent, united and developed country, and to have an Islamic system in which all tribes and ethnicities of the country find themselves without any discrimination and live their lives in love and brotherhood,” said Baradar.
“We believe firmly that protecting the rights of all Afghans is the best way for you to break the cycle of violence,” said Pompeo.
The negotiations are set to begin on Monday, where parties will address issues, among them are disarming Taliban fighters and militias, maintaining a permanent ceasefire, and constitutional changes.
“After decades of conflict, these talks are the best chance of peace. We have to embrace them wholeheartedly and keep in mind the ultimate goal: to end the violence,” said NATO secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
Women’s rights are among the many key issues that are likely to be addressed in the negotiations.
“I really wonder whether the Taliban have changed or not…. in the Taliban negotiating team there is not a single woman to be heard, which means that the Taliban do not believe in the participation of women and the position of women in all processes. This creates concerns for Afghan women,” said Mariam Tayee, Afghan women’s rights activist.
This sentiment was echoed by UN envoy Deborah Lyons
“An inclusive peace process, involving the meaningful participation of women, youth and victims, upholding the human rights of every Afghan is the only path to peace.”