A top Afghan delegation, led by the country’s peace council chairman Abdullah Abdullah, departed for Qatar’s capital Doha on Friday for crucial talks with the Taliban amid ensuing violence in Afghanistan.
Speaking to reporters at the Kabul Airport, Abdullah said the Taliban must realize the raging war and advances on districts would lead them nowhere, and they need to capitalize on this chance for political settlement in the country. “There is still a chance for peace despite the ongoing heavy fighting between the government forces and the Taliban in various parts of the country,” said chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation.
Earlier, former President Hamid Karzai called this delegation comprising key politicians, including former Vice President Mohammad Karim Khalili, Ata Mohammad Noor, head of the splinter faction of Jamiat-e-Islami, chief negotiator Masoom Stanekzai, Salam Rahimi, Fatima Gailani and State Minister for Peace Affairs Sadat Mansoor Naderi, a strong team with decision-making power.
Karzai last week called on the Afghan government and the Taliban to prioritize peace talks over bloodshed in the country. Addressing a news conference at his residence, Karzai also hinted at resumption of stalled talks between the two sides.
Also last week, the top US peace broker, Zalmay Khalilzad, began his shuttle diplomacy tour of Qatar, Uzbekistan and Pakistan amid ensuing violence across Afghanistan. In a series of tweets, Afghanistan-born seasoned US diplomat said he was returning to Doha and the region to continue “determined diplomacy” in pursuit of a peace agreement between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban.
Since US President Joe Biden announced an exit plan from Afghanistan in May, the Taliban have captured over 150 districts in the war-weary country.
The intra-Afghan peace talks in Doha are part of the US-Taliban peace deal inked in February 2020, but both the Afghan government and the Taliban have been blaming each other for the lack of progress on the negotiation table.
Peace conference in Islamabad postponed
Meanwhile, Pakistan on Friday postponed a scheduled Afghan peace conference in capital Islamabad over the weekend.
The announcement came after Prime Minister Imran Khan and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Friday met on the sidelines of “Central and South Asia 2021: Regional Connectivity: Challenges and Opportunities” conference, in Uzbekistan.
In a short statement, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said the Afghan peace conference scheduled to be held in Islamabad from July 17-19 has been postponed until after Eid al-Adha, a holy Muslim festival.
The new dates of the said conference will be announced later, the statement added.
On Thursday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri said the conference will provide a momentum to the ongoing efforts for peace in Afghanistan as a number of Afghan leaders have already confirmed their participation.
However, a senior official in the ministry said the conference has been delayed on the request of the Afghan president as he wanted to hold it after Eid.
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