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Doha, September 12, 2020
The much-awaited historic face-to-face talks between the representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban began in Doha on Saturday after several delays.
The negotiations are intended to bring about a political settlement to a decades-long conflict that has taken many lives and destabilized the country, reports TOLO News.
The intra-Afghan talks were part of the historic agreement signed between the US and the Taliban on February 29 also in the Qatari capital.
The talks were to be held 10 days after the deal was signed but it kept getting delayed over the prisoner release issue between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
The government claimed that it has freed all the 5,000 Taliban inmates, while the militant group has also completed the release of 1,000 government prisoners.
Political parties and political movements called on the Taliban negotiators and the delegation representing the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in the talks to show flexibility for the sake of peace and for Afghanistan's national interests, TOLO news reported.
They said that the two sides shouldn't try to sacrifice the nation's interests for minor issues.
Former President Hamid Karzai said that he hopes that intra-Afghan talks here yield a positive outcome.
"At this very critical stage in the history of our beloved country, peace and security are the main priority of all people. I urge the negotiators to prioritize the large national interests of the country over the limited and temporary demands, and to act with a spirit of forgiveness and tolerance, focusing on the present and the future of our motherland," said Karzai.
Meanwhile, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) said that the peace process should be broad-based and inclusive.
"The meaningful, broad-based and inclusive presence of the citizens and victims of war are among the important issues that need to be considered in the peace negotiation talks," said Zabiullah Farhang, media adviser to AIHRC.
"Peace must ensure a durable stability in Afghanistan. The Islamic republic system, which has been achieved by the joint efforts of the Afghan society and many other countries, must be protected, because this kind of system will help us live together in a peaceful way and maintain relations with the international community," said Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq, the leader of Hizb-e-Wahdat-e-Islami Afghanistan.
"This is a historic opportunity for the people of Afghanistan, the peace negotiators from both sides need to play a historic role during the talks," said Abdul Qarloq, the deputy head of Junbish-e-Milli Islami party.
"We have to be very vigilant that it will be a real peace," said Abdul Karim Khurram, former chief of staff of the president.
"We hope to achieve the peace that our people want," said Wahidullah Sabaoon, the head of Hizb-e-Islami Mutahid-e-Afghanistan party.
"Confidence-building measures are a key component of peace process," said Fazel Hadi Wazin, a member of the Hizb-e-Islami party.
The opening ceremony will be attended by senior officials from different countries including US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and senior officials from the host country Qatar.
The 21-member Afghan team is headed by former intelligence chief Mohammed Masoom Stanekzai.
Abdullah will inaugurate the event with his opening remarks and will be followed by Taliban deputy leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and Pompeo, said the TOLO News report.
Meanwhile, Pompeo, who arrived in Doha on Friday night, said in a tweet that Afghans deserve a country that isn't at war, and "we are here to support them in building a roadmap to a peaceful future".
Mullah Mohammad Daud, a member of the Taliban's political office in Qatar who is attending the opening ceremony of the negotiations, says he is happy about the start of the talks, adding that "war is not good".
Before heading to Doha, Abdullah, said: "This is a historic day. I am hopeful that the talks could lead to ending the war and restoring lasting peace in Afghanistan."
Acting Foreign Minister Mohammad Haneef Atmar said a ceasefire will be the first topic in the talks.
"We hope that consensus is also built among the Taliban regarding peace," he added.