Afghan meeting in Doha ends with 'roadmap for peace'
DOHA -- Dozens of influential Afghans concluded two days of talks with the Taliban on Monday (July 8) in Doha, Qatar, laying the foundation for renewed negotiations.
The encounter ended with a joint statement pledging a "roadmap for peace" based on the opening of a monitored peace process, return of internally displaced people and non-interference by regional powers in Afghanistan.
"Assuring women's rights in political, social, economic, educational, cultural affairs as per (and) within the Islamic framework of Islamic values," also featured in the joint text.
The Taliban agreed to take actions in order to ensure the security of "public institutions, such as schools, religious madrassas, hospitals, markets, water dams and other workplaces".
"The Doha peace conference participants strongly support the current peace talks in Doha and believe that an effective and positive outcome from the negotiations will be fruitful for Afghanistan," the statement said.
"It's not an agreement; it's a foundation to start the discussion," delegate Mary Akrami, executive director of the Afghan Women's Network, told AFP.
"The good part was that both sides agreed," she said.
The Taliban's Amir Khan Mutaqi, a government minister during the militant group's 1996-2001 rule of Afghanistan, read a Pashtu version of the roughly 700-word statement.
Habiba Sarabi, deputy chair of the Afghan High Peace Council, read the Dari equivalent.
About 70 delegates attended the gathering at a luxury hotel in Doha, and the large meeting room erupted into applause after the joint statement had been read out shortly before midnight.
The intra-Afghan meetings follow six days of direct US-Taliban talks that were put on hold for the two-day Afghan conference.
The United States did not participate directly in the Afghan summit, which was attended by political heavyweights, government officials and at least six women.
The flurry of talks continued with the resumption of direct US-Taliban contact, also in Doha, Tuesday (July 9) as both sides eye a resolution to the 18-year conflict.
The Taliban refused participants' call for a ceasefire, which would pave the way for long-lasting peace in the country.
"Except the Taliban, the majority of [the] participants emphasised their support for keeping the constitutional Republic. We reached some common ground, partially reflected [in] final declaration. Taliban did not positively respond to the calls for an immediate ceasefire," Nader Naderi, chief of the Independent Administrative Reform & Civil Service Commission and senior adviser to President Ashraf Ghani, said in a tweet after participating in the conference.
Still, US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad has said that the latest round of US-Taliban talks has "been the most productive of the rounds we've had with the Talibs".
"We want a stable Afghanistan," he told reporters on the sidelines of the dialogue on Monday.
"The Afghans' meeting with the Taliban was a big success," he said.
The Taliban said they were "happy with progress".