DOHA/ QATAR: Calling the beginning of intra-Afghan peace talks a “truly momentous occasion,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged the warring sides–Afghan government and Taliban– to “seize the opportunity”, adding that Washington is ready to support the negotiations.
The much-anticipated peace talks between the Afghanistan government and the Taliban have opened in Qatar’s capital Doha to end the two decades of war that has killed ten of thousands.
“Today is truly a momentous occasion. Afghans have at long last chosen to sit together and chart a new course for your country. This is a moment that we must dare to hope. As we look toward the light, we recall the darkness of four decades of war and the lost lives and opportunities, but it is remarkable and a testament to the human spirit that the pain and patterns of destruction are no match for the enduring hopes for peace held by all Afghan people and their many friends,” Pompeo said the remarks during the opening ceremony.
Topics on the agenda during the talks include a permanent ceasefire, Afghanistan’s future political system and a range of social issues.
The Afghan government’s 21-member negotiating team was led by Masoom Stanekzai, a former intelligence chief. On the other hand, the Taliban was led by Mawlavi Abdul Hakim, the terror group’s chief justice and a close aide of the group’s chief Haibatullah Akhunzada, Al Jazeera reported.
The negotiations, where the two warring sides will sit face-to-face for the first time, will start on Monday.
“We know that Afghans yearn to determine their own affairs. It’s why you all are here. Free from outside interference. We hope you will enjoy cooperation and mutually respectful relations with your neighbours and other international partners and that you will indeed become self-reliant, liberated from the shackles of dependence on others,” he said.
“So I cannot strongly enough urge you: Seize this opportunity. Protect this process. Respect each other. Be patient. Remain focused on the mission. We’re prepared to support your negotiations should you ask, but this time is yours. This time is yours. I pray that you will seize the moment,” he added.
Peace negotiations were expected to take place in March but were delayed repeatedly due to a prisoner exchange agreement made as part of the deal signed between the United States and Taliban in February.
According to the agreement, the Afghan government said it will release 5,000 Taliban prisoners while the Taliban agreed to release 1,000 Afghan troops.