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Next round of peace talks likely in China this week

AT Monitoring Desk-KABUL: The second round of peace talks between representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban militants, aimed at ending the 14-year war, will take place on July 30 in China, official said Friday.

The two sides are still working out the details such as the list of attendants, which should be finalized in the coming days, said Mohammad Ismail Qasimyar, advisor of the High Peace Council in international affairs.

Qasimyar told Radio Azadi that Kabul would request a temporary ceasefire in the fighting, which has intensified following the April launch of the Taliban’s warm-weather offensive.

“We are willing to enter into a ceasefire and it will be a good test to see if fighters on the ground are willing to accept a ceasefire directive from the Taliban leadership,” he said.

The first round of official face-to-face talks took place in Murree, Pakistan on July 7, supervised by American and Chinese representatives. They followed several informal contacts since President Ashraf Ghani came into office last year.

Ghani’s deputy spokesman Zafar Hashemi did not confirm details of the next round of talks but said the president is seeking that those representing the Afghan side include people “from all sectors of society” — women, civil society, peace activists as well as jihadi leaders.

Hashemi said the president has special concerns that women be represented “because of the fears that people have had that the protections for women will be compromised in a peace deal.”

Spokesman for the High Peace Council, lawmaker Shazada Shahid, said at least one woman will be on the government team.

He said the Taliban had made several demands of their own in the talks so far, including the removal of Taliban names from UN and US blacklists, which would enable their members to travel internationally.

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