Historic Afghan peace talks begin in Doha

ISLAMABADDOHA – Historic peace talks between Afghan government’s representatives and Taliban have begun in Doha, Qatar to seek an end to two decades of war that has killed tens of thousands people.

Before the warring sides sit down for face-to-face negotiations, they were urged by various countries to reach an immediate ceasefire and to forge an agreement.

While addressing the opening ceremony, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged the two sides to seize the opportunity to strike a comprehensive peace deal, while acknowledging many challenges lay ahead.

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. He said negotiations may have problems but should move forward with patience.

Speaking on the occasion, UN Secretary General Antonio process in which women, youth and victims of conflict are meaningfully represented offers best hope of a sustainable solution. Guterres expressed hope that progress towards peace can lead to return of millions of Afghans displaced internally and across borders to their homes.

Expressing his views, China’s State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said cessation of violence and durable peace is strongest wish of over 37 million Afghan people and shared expectation of regional countries and international community.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said a humanitarian ceasefire must be priority at the beginning because fighting and talks cannot go together. He said, “We are ready to contribute to this process in every possible way including hosting a round of the talks.”

Historic peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban seeking to end 19 years of war opened in Doha on Saturday. Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani opened the negotiations at a ceremony in a luxury Doha hotel, flanked by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Washington’s Afghanistan special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.

The Afghan government’s top negotiator at historic peace talks in Doha on Saturday thanked the Taliban for their “willingness to negotiate” as the opening ceremony began. “I can tell you with confidence that the history of our country will remember today as the end of the war and suffering of our people,” said Abdullah Abdullah, an Afghan former minister.

The Taliban’s political leader reiterated his group’s demand for Afghanistan to adopt an “Islamic system” as peace talks with the Afghan government began in Doha. “I want all to consider Islam in their negotiations and agreements and not to sacrifice Islam to personal interests,” said Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban co-founder who spent eight years in Pakistani custody, adding that he wanted an “Islamic system” in Afghanistan.

Pakistan cautions against spoilers, repeating past mistakes 

As the historic Afghan peace talks begin Saturday in Doha to end decades-old war, Pakistan warned the international community against the role of spoilers poised to impair the hard-earned process.

Addressing the opening session of Afghan peace talks through video link, the foreign minister termed the commencement of peace talks a global recognition of Pakistan’s stance of no-military solution to Afghan dispute rather a political solution being only a way forward.

Prime Minister’s Special Envoy on Afghanistan Ambassador Muhammad Sadiq is representing Pakistan at the ceremony while the foreign minister participated virtually at the special invitation of Qatari counterpart Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani. Among others, the key speakers at the event included Abdullah Abdullah, chairperson of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation, Taliban deputy leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The foreign minister said that the forthcoming negotiations were for the Afghans to decide about their future.

“The Afghans alone must be the masters of their destiny without outside influence or interference. The spoilers from within and from without will pose formidable challenges. Constant vigilance will be required to guard against their machinations,” Qureshi said.

He hoped that all the sides would fulfill their commitments and remain committed to achieve a positive outcome.

The foreign minister said the Intra-Afghan Negotiations were a milestone towards establishment of peace in Afghanistan. The Afghan leadership must seize the historic opportunity to pave way for a durable peace through the negotiations.

He reiterated that considering it a collective responsibility, Pakistan always played re-conciliatory role in Afghan peace process and would keep it up. He said besides Afghanistan, Pakistan was the country that had suffered the most due to Afghan conflict bearing attacks, deaths and displacement of citizens besides huge economic loss. While calling for the fullest role of international community to take the matter to its logical end, the foreign minister also advised not to repeat the mistakes made in the past, to achieve the dream of peaceful Afghanistan.

He urged the international community to continue supporting Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process while respecting the consensus to emerge from the Intra-Afghan Negotiations.

Later, on Twitter, the foreign minister termed it a “historic day for Afghan peace process.”

He said Pakistan had long maintained that peace, not war, was the answer. “We are proud to champion a partnership for peace and move forward with faith and resolve that will not be deterred. Pakistan will continue to be a force for a stable and prosperous region,” he remarked.

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