Afghan peace dialogue opens

Source: Reuters Published: 2020/9/13 16:38:41

Govt officials and Taliban meet for historic negotiations

Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani (C) attends the celebration marking the 101st anniversary of the country's Independence Day in Kabul, capital of Afghanistan, Aug. 18, 2020. Afghanistan on Tuesday marked the 101st anniversary of its independence from the British occupation amid the worsening security situation. (Photo by Rahmatullah Alizadah/Xinhua)

Afghan government representatives and Taliban insurgents gathered on Saturday for historic peace talks aimed at ending two decades of war that has killed tens of thousands of combatants and civilians.

Ahead of face-to-face negotiations in coming days, the warring sides were urged by various countries and groups to reach an immediate cease fire and forge an agreement that upholds women's rights.

The government of US President Donald Trump, who is eager to claim an end to America's longest conflict as he seeks reelection, expressed its intention to use aid as leverage for a deal.

The opening ceremony came one day after the 19th anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the US that triggered its military involvement in Afghanistan.

The head of Afghanistan's peace council, Abdullah Abdullah, said that even if the two sides could not agree on all points, they should compromise.

Taliban leader Mullah Baradar Akhund said that Afghanistan should "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."

US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters that preventing terrorism was the chief condition but that protecting minority and women's rights would also influence any future decisions on Congress-allocated funding. "There is no blank check."

Officials, diplomats and analysts say that although getting both sides to the negotiating table was a major achievement, this does not mean the path to peace will be easy.

Afghanistan government and Taliban representatives met after the opening ceremony to discuss how negotiations would proceed, officials said.

Achieving a significant reduction in violence and how to get to a permanent cease fire would be among the first issues the sides would discuss when they meet on Sunday, Abdullah told Reuters.

How to include the Taliban, who have rejected the legitimacy of the Western-backed Afghan government, in any governing arrangement and how to safeguard the rights of women and minorities who suffered under Taliban rule are also big challenges.

Negotiations to broker a comprehensive peace deal were a component of a troop withdrawal pact signed between the US and the Taliban in February.


Posted in: MID-EAST

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