KABUL: Afghanistan’s long-awaited peace negotiations could possibly either be delayed or held online in the form of a video conference, against the backdrop of a new obstacle that has just surfaced.
Several negotiators of the Afghan government have been infected with coronavirus and this could have effects on the timeline of the negotiations which is next week.
Last week, Chairman of High Council for National Reconciliation, Abdullah Abdullah, had stated intra-Afghan dialogue would begin within two weeks.
But, sources reveal some Afghan peace negotiators have tested positive for COVID-19. They also point to the ambivalence as to whether the peace talks will be face-to-face or video conference.
This uncertainty comes as Kabul and Taliban have not agreed upon the exact time and venue of negotiations. But the US special envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, has said that the time of intra-Afghan talks depends on an ongoing prisoner exchange.
Khalilzad has departed Washington for Qatar, Pakistan and Afghanistan, where he would hold talks regarding the Afghan peace process, the U.S. Department of State said. He will be obtaining agreement between the Afghan parties, and the practical next steps necessary for a smooth start to intra-Afghan negotiations, said the State Department.
The time for the intra-Afghan-negotiations is still tentative but both the Afghan government and Taliban said that the prisoner swap process would be continuing – a process the Taliban hinges direct talks with Kabul on.