KABUL: Afghan government-backed negotiators are set to head to Kabul for consultations on peace talks, an official said on Monday, as part of efforts to advance the crucial talks with the Taliban that has dragged for months.
Habiba Sarabi, a member of Afghanistan’s negotiating team, has said the delegation was leaving Qatar – where negotiations have been taking place – for Afghanistan to consult with senior government officials and that they will be trying to speed up the rest of the talks thereafter.
Afghanistan and Taliban have been in talks since September, and the two sides finally agreed on a 12-item agenda for the main talks after months of rift over issues of contention including the basis of talks and U.S. military pullout from Afghanistan which hindered continuation of peace process.
“To advance negotiations on the agenda, there are important issues that need to be discussed with the government leadership and the political elite. The peace delegation will go to Kabul and we will move the rest of the process quickly in the light of the leaders’ views,” she said.
According to Sarabi, the focus is on an agreement with the Taliban on ceasefire and the end of the war in Afghanistan.
Afghan and Taliban negotiators have said they will be resuming talks in three weeks.
This is as Afghanistan’s National Security Adviser, Hamdullah Moheb, suggested on Saturday that the next round of talks be pursued inside Afghanistan.
His proposal has met with euphoria. Iqbal Khyber, head of the People’s Peace Movement, says the conduct of peace talks in Afghanistan would be advantageous but insisted that any regional meddling must be stopped.
“It is the best proposal to establish a safe zone inside the country, to establish a ceasefire there, a completely independent region in which neither the government nor the Taliban are involved,” said Khyber.
“If negotiations with the Taliban take place in Afghanistan, any regional meddling will be neutralized. But such ground where neither regional intelligence nor global espionage agencies stay away from this process has not been created,” he opined.
Afghanistan’s National Security Council has said if peace talks are to be held inside Afghanistan, the interests of Afghans will be largely served and the process will be protected from foreign interference.
The Taliban have said they will clarify their position on the proposed talks inside Afghanistan later.
Although Taliban representatives have been holding peace talks with the Afghan delegation in Doha since September 12, their attacks inside Afghanistan have not stopped.