ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has welcomed the agreement reached on rules and procedures for talks between the Afghan Taliban and the government in Doha.
“This is another significant step forward. The agreement reflects a common resolve of the parties to secure a negotiated settlement,” said a statement by the Foreign Office. “This is an important development contributing towards a successful outcome of intra-Afghan negotiations which we all hope for,” it added.
The spokesman said Pakistan will continue to support intra-Afghan Negotiations, culminating in an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political solution paving the way for a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan.
The Afghan government and Taliban representatives said they have reached a preliminary deal to press on with peace talks. The agreement lays out the way forward for further discussion and is considered a breakthrough because it will allow negotiators to move on to more substantive issues including talks on a ceasefire.
“The procedure including its preamble of the negotiation has been finalised and from now on, the negotiation will begin on the agenda,” Nader Nadery, a member of the Afghan government’s negotiating team, told a news agency. The Taliban spokesman confirmed the same on Twitter. “A joint working committee was tasked to prepare the draft topics for the agenda,” said a joint statement from both sides.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s spokesman, Sediq Sediqqi, said on Twitter, quoting the Afghan leader: “(The agreement) is a step forward towards beginning the negotiations on the main issues, including a comprehensive ceasefire as the key demand of the Afghan people.”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo congratulated the two sides on “perseverance and willingness to find common ground”, and added that the United States would “work hard with all sides in pursuit of a serious reduction of violence and ceasefire”.
US Special Representative for Afghan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad said that the two sides had agreed on a “three-page agreement codifing rules and procedures for their negotiations on a political road map and a comprehensive ceasefire”.
The Taliban has refused to agree to a ceasefire during the preliminary stages of talks, saying that would be taken up only when the way forward for talks was agreed upon.
United Nations envoy for Afghanistan Deborah Lyons welcomed the “positive development” adding that “this breakthrough should be a springboard to reach the peace wanted by all Afghans”.
Last month, an agreement reached between Taliban and government negotiators was held up at the last minute after the Taliban objected at the document’s preamble as it mentioned the Afghan government by name.
The Taliban refused to refer to the Afghan negotiating team as representatives of the Afghan government, as they contest the legitimacy of the administration led by President Ashraf Ghani.