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Afghan peace talks likely in Dubai this week

KABUL: A meeting between Afghan government’s representatives and former Taliban leaders to lay the groundwork for peace talks is expected to take place this week in Dubai, sources said on Wednesday.

A source close to the peace process said the meeting was likely to take place on Friday or Saturday in the United Arab Emirates.

Mullah Jalil Akhund, a former deputy foreign minister during the Taliban’s regime, will represent the Taliban while Masoom Stanakzai, the high peace council’s secretary, will represent the Afghan government in the talks.

But a Taliban’s source said the Dubai talks would not be fruitful because Mullah Jalil was considered a close ally of Pakistan and had grave differences with the Taliban leadership.

Mullah Jalil had reportedly developed grave differences over financial issues with Gul Agha Ishaqzai, the movement’s director of economic and financial commission.

The Taliban’s source doubted Mullah Jalil’s ability to get permission from the Taliban’s Quetta Shura to represent it in the peace talks.

“There may be coordination between Pakistan and the Afghan Taliban leadership to send Jalil as a representative of the Taliban but Ishaqzi will never accept him in that capacity.”

The source said “Pakistan has promised with (President) Ghani to help broker peace talks and the country might have told the Taliban that now it wants a face-saving solution.”

He continued widespread advertisement of the Dubai talks were expected, but there was no hope of any positive outcome.

But Maulvi Shehzada Shahid, the High Peace Council spokesperson, denied any such meeting or peace talks were planned in Dubai. He confirmed peace talks were planned in Turkey in the near future.

Chief Executive Officer Dr Abdullah Abdullah, on the last day of his five-day landmark visit to the US with President Ghani, said peace talks with Taliban militants would be initiated in few weeks. “Peace talks have not been initiated so far but we hope it would start soon”, he said.

Shakib Mustaghni, spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told a press briefing that peace talks’ agenda or venue had not been specified so far. He confirmed efforts were being made in this regard and details would be shared soon with the people.

Mohammad Hassan Haqyar, a political analyst, said Pakistan had assured President Ghani of cooperation to jumpstart peace negotiations with the Taliban.

He said some Taliban leaders, like Maulvi Kabir, Mullah Jalil, Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor and few others, who had been under Pakistan’s influence and could negotiate with the Afghan government.

Haqyar said Taliban leaders and their Qatar office had made it clear that no one could represent them except the Doha office. The Taliban leadership had clearly stated they would hold only result-oriented peace negotiations. “Pakistan can play a positive role in peace talks since it wields influence over Taliban.”

The Taliban have denied peace talks with the Afghan government, but they have confirmed their delegations from Qatar had visited Pakistan and China to revive the stalled process. (PAN)

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