ISLAMABAD -- The Afghan government and Taliban negotiators are nearing a compromise on a key sticking point that has stalled peace talks in Doha, Qatar, a senior Afghan official said Wednesday (September 30).
Talks started in the Qatari capital on September 12, but an optimistic beginning was marred by ongoing violence, and discussions have been bogged down by disagreements over which interpretation of Islam should be used to frame laws in a post-conflict Afghanistan.
The Taliban had insisted on strict adherence to the Hanafi school of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence, but government negotiators worried this policy could be used to discriminate against the predominantly Shia Hazara community and other religious minorities.
After several small-group meetings in Doha, the issue has been resolved "to a large extent", said Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, which is overseeing Kabul's peace push, in an interview with AFP.
Both sides provisionally have agreed "to recognise the principal issue of Hanafi's role without any discrimination to Shia communities or minorities, so … the compromise is around that," Abdullah said.
Resolution of the issue means one less obstacle as negotiators try to draw up an agenda for talks, which could take years to complete.
Another stumbling block has emerged: the extent to which the Taliban recognise the legitimacy of the Kabul government under a future deal.
Progress after slow start
Similarly, the Taliban now want any future peace deal to exclude overt references to the government and instead to frame the agreement as some sort of "intra-Afghan" accord.
Without providing details, Abdullah said the two sides appeared to have made progress on the issue.
After a slow start, the negotiating teams are now "getting along quite well and this latest impasse, hopefully we will overcome it soon", he said.
Abdullah was speaking in Islamabad as he finished a three-day visit to Pakistan.
"I leave Pakistan with positive feelings and positive senses," Abdullah said, adding he had asked Pakistani authorities to tell the Taliban to reduce violence, which is flaring across Afghanistan as the Taliban refuse to entertain a ceasefire.
"My sense was this would be communicated publicly and in other ways," he said.
Meanwhile, Zalmay Khalilzad, the US envoy who brokered Washington's deal with the Taliban in February, arrived in Doha later September 30 to "express US support for a negotiated settlement that brings an end to 40 years of war", the US State Department said.