The United Nations, Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and NATO welcomed the start of intra-Afghan talks in Qatar on Saturday, saying the process presents an ideal chance for lasting peace after decades of conflict in Afghanistan.

UN chief Antonio Guterres said the talks are a “major opportunity to achieve the long-held aspirations of the people of Afghanistan for peace.”

In an address via video link, he called for a complete cease-fire “to protect civilians and to de-escalate the conflict in order to save lives and to create a conducive environment.”

Guterres stressed the need for participation of women in the peace process and the future development of Afghanistan, for which he said the UN will extend its full support.

“I hope progress towards peace can lead to the return of millions of Afghans displaced internally and across borders to their own country with a safe environment,” he said.

“It is of crucial importance that all Afghans leaders and members of the international community do everything possible to make this a reality.”

Yousef Al-Othaimeen, secretary general of the OIC, hoped that the “historic” moment marks the start of a journey towards durable peace in Afghanistan.

“This is a historic opportunity and I, on behalf of the OIC, appeal to all leaders in Afghanistan to work together to bring an immediate and lasting peace in Afghanistan,” he said.

He commended the countries who played a key role in making the talks possible, while urging all parties to ensure that the negotiations prove to be constructive, help resolve differences, and lead to comprehensive reconciliation. 

“Dialogue is the only option that leads to peace, security, and stability for the people of Afghanistan and their country,” he said.

Al-Othaimeen also urged the Afghan government and Taliban to immediately end all fighting and move forward for reconciliation and peace.

He said the top Islamic organization will support the peace process and all efforts for development in Afghanistan.

For this part, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the military bloc had always pushed for a peaceful resolution to the Afghan conflict.

He said the many sacrifices made by Afghans and NATO forces were the reason that “Afghanistan is no longer a safe haven for international terrorists.”

He stressed that the opportunity for lasting peace now lies within the grasp of the Afghan government and the Taliban.

“After decades of conflict, these talks are the best chance for peace. We have to embrace them wholeheartedly, and keep in mind the ultimate goal [is] to end the violence,” Stoltenberg asserted.

He said the success of the ongoing process can “enable every Afghan man and woman to lead a dignified life and ensure that Afghanistan is never again a haven for international terrorists.”

The historic intra-Afghan peace talks — which brought the Afghan government and the Taliban insurgents face-to-face for discussing peace — aim to end nearly two decades of armed insurgency that killed thousands of people in the war-torn country.

The Afghan government’s 21-member negotiating team was led by Masoom Stanekzai, a former intelligence chief. The Taliban is led by Mawlavi Abdul Hakim, the armed group’s chief justice and a close aide of the group’s chief Haibatullah Akhunzada.

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