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Protection of civilians urged amid peace parley

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KABUL: Human Rights Watch on Sunday urged warring parties of Afghanistan to prioritize protection of civilians during the thorny peace process and stop deadly attacks in the war-ravaged country.

This is as a prelude to peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in Doha since September has not led to a solution to the escalating conflict and Afghanistan has seen a steep surge in violent attacks, causing uptick in civilian casualties.

HRW’s deputy director for Asia has said that a credible political agreement was needed to build public confidence in the ongoing peace process.

 “Afghans are very concerned about the delay in the talks and a lack of results. However, the escalation of violence has led to an increase in the suffering of civilians,” he said.

He urged the negotiating sides to take measures to protect civilians halt deadly and illegal attacks before any final and peaceful solution to the conflict per se is reached.

The warring parties in Afghanistan have always blamed each other for most of the civilian casualties in the country.

The watchdog’s concerns about escalation of violence were earlier echoed by the US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad who had said “window for political solution won’t stay open forever”, signaling the US pressure on both Kabul and the Taliban to iron out their longstanding discord and set out peace negotiations.

A spokesman for the State Ministry of Peace has also said that the parties to the conflict must stop fighting and agree on a permanent ceasefire in order for the ongoing talks in Qatar to have a good conclusion.

The Taliban’s spokesman, Mohammad Naeem Wardak, confirmed earlier that meetings were continuing and signaled hope for tangible results in the future.

This is as the United Nations has put civilian casualties in Afghanistan in the first nine months of 2020 at 2,117 deaths and 3,722 injured.

The Interior Ministry and the Afghan National Security Council have blamed the Taliban for most civilian casualties. The Interior Ministry said on Saturday that 261 civilians had been killed in Taliban attacks in the past two months.

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