Intra-Afghan talks to commence in Doha tomorrow

KABUL: The long-awaited talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban will take place in Qatar’s capital Doha from Saturday.

Qatar’s foreign ministry made the announcement on Thursday as a final hurdle over the release of six Taliban prisoners appears to have been resolved.

“The State of Qatar is pleased to announce that the Afghanistan Peace Negotiations will commence in Doha on Saturday the 12th of September 2020,” the ministry said in the statement.

“These vitally important direct negotiations between the different Afghan parties represent a step forward in bringing lasting peace to Afghanistan.”

The Afghan Taliban will be led by Mawlavi Abdul Hakim, the armed group’s chief justice and a close aide of the group’s chief Haibatullah Akhunzada.

The Afghan government negotiating team includes Chairman of National Reconciliation Council Abdullah Abdullah is planning to fly to Doha on Friday.

A permanent ceasefire is expected to be at the top of the agenda as well as a political settlement to end the years-long conflict in the country.

The intra-Afghan talks were set to take place in March but have repeatedly been delayed over a prisoner exchange agreement made as part of the United States-Taliban deal signed in February.

The Taliban had agreed to release 1,000 Afghan troops, while the government said it would release 5,000 Taliban prisoners. France and Australia objected to freeing six of the Taliban prisoners who were involved in the killing of their nationals.

US President Donald Trump said on Thursday that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to Doha to take part in the peace talks.

Pompeo welcomed the start of negotiations, saying they will mark “a historic opportunity for Afghanistan to bring an end to four decades of war and bloodshed”.

The Afghan government backs the current political system, while the Taliban wants to reimpose its version of Islamic law as the country’s system of governance.

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