TEHRAN (Iran News) – Afghan government representatives and Taliban militants gathered on Saturday for historic peace talks aimed at ending two decades of war that has killed tens of thousands of people.
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 head of Afghanistan’s peace council, Abdullah Abdullah, said that even if the two sides could not agree on all points, they should compromise.
“My delegation are in Doha representing a political system that is supported by millions of men and women from a diversity of cultural, social and ethnic backgrounds in our homeland,” he said.
Both sides will be “peace heroes” if negotiations bring about a lasting peace that protects Afghanistan’s independence and leads to a system based on Islamic principles that preserves the rights of all people, said Abdullah.
Taliban political 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.”
“The negotiation process may have problems, but the request is that the negotiations move forward with a lot of patience, with a lot of attention, and it should be continued with such kind of attention,” he said. “We want to give them (people of Afghanistan) this assurance that with full honesty we continue the Afghan peace negotiation, and we try for peace and tranquility, we will pave the ground in Afghanistan.”
US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad called negotiations “a historic opportunity for peace … one that benefits all Afghans and contributes to regional stability and global security.”
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.”
Iran welcomed the intra-Afghan negotiations, hoping for comprehensive understanding.
In a statement released on Saturday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry said the Islamic Republic hopes that “the talks will be held within a context of comprehensive understanding among Afghans and without any foreign interference”.
The statement added Iran is hopeful that the negotiations lead to “lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan as well as security in the region”.
It noted that a “responsible withdrawal” of foreign troops from Afghanistan is an “inevitable prerequisite” for achieving peace and security in the country.
In a statement, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan hailed the talks, saying there is “no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan” and that the only way forward is a “negotiated political settlement”.
Khan urged Afghan leaders to “seize this historic opportunity” to “secure an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement”.
While Saturday’s opening was about ceremony, the hard negotiations will be held behind closed doors and over a number of sessions.
The sides will be tackling tough issues in the negotiations, which will include the terms of a permanent cease-fire, the rights of women and minorities, and the disarming of tens of thousands of Taliban militants and militias loyal to warlords, some of them aligned with the government.
How to include the Taliban, who have rejected the legitimacy of the Afghan government, in any governing arrangement is also a big challenge.
Negotiations to broker a comprehensive peace deal were a component of a troop withdrawal pact signed between the United States and the Taliban in February. After months of delay, a dispute over the Taliban’s demand for the release of 5,000 prisoners was resolved this week.
The Taliban were ousted in 2001 by a US-led invasion of Afghanistan.
AFP, Reuters, AP contributed to this story.
- source : Iran Daily