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Afghanistan and Taliban pull back from the brink

Weeks after Afghanistan’s warring factions started arduous negotiations on a roadmap for peace parleys in Qatar, Afghan government and Taliban seem to be edging toward an agreement on major issues of contention

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KABUL: Signs have emerged of some progress toward resolving deadlock in peace talks as the Afghan government and Taliban delegates seem to be reaching agreement on most of the contentious issues that have hitherto bedeviled the start of peace talks.

Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation and the Taliban say they have agreed on majority of contentious issues and are nearing a complete agreement on the roadmap for peace negotiations.

This development comes after the US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad travelled to Doha on Wednesday to mediate between Afghan and Taliban delegates after dispute over several controversial issues prevented an outcome for preliminary parley. Ahead of Khalilzad’s visit to Doha, The US State Department said he would be meeting with representatives of both sides to ensure progress in peace talks.

Growing bloodshed and violence is raising fears among people as Taliban bombings and attacks continue to kill in droves across the country.

The spokesman for the Afghan National Reconciliation Council, Fereydoun Khozon, reiterated yesterday that the contact groups of the government and Taliban negotiating delegations were close to reaching a full agreement on the procedure.

The Taliban also say that contact groups have agreed on many issues. It is a process that needs a long time. Some issues may need to be discussed in more depth, so it is time consuming,” said Mohammad Naeem, spokesman for the Taliban’s political bureau in Doha on Thursday.

“In general, we can say we have agreed on most cases we agree,” he said. “But there is still no final agreement on issues of contention.”

Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation, also raised hopes in Pakistani capital Islamabad on Wednesday by confirming that disputes over the Hanafi and Jafari jurisprudence between Afghan government and Taliban have largely been resolved.

After months of waiting, direct talks between Afghan government representatives and the Taliban began on September 12 in Doha, Qatar. But the Taliban’s insistence on Hanafi jurisprudence as the basis for peace talks is what some Afghan government officials believe had slowed the talks.

“The differences that had emerged between the Taliban and the Afghan delegation are not impossible to resolve. Both parties must exercise flexibility and forbearance to resolve their disputes,” said Deputy Chairman of High Council for National Reconciliation, Haji Din Mohammad, urging an immediate agreement on issues of contention.

This is as the U.S. Charge d’Affaires in Kabul said Thursday that the United States and other countries are ready to assist in peace talks in Qatar. Mr. Wilson added that the Doha talks could be time-consuming because, he said, both sides had started from scratch.

He said acceptance of the views of the United States and other countries depends on the negotiating parties and that Washington is not willing to impose its views on them but is ready to help if needed.

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