Diplomacy

Stalled peace talks progress as Taliban, government close gap on key issue

AFP

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High Council for National Reconciliation Chairman Abdullah Abdullah (centre) speaks with members of delegations at the end of a session of peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, September 12. [Karim Jaafar/AFP]

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.

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Taliban's proposals in Qatar's talks are reasonable. The future government of Afghanistan must be formed according to the Hanafi jurisprudence, which has 90 percent followers in the country. The system of Afghanistan must be Islamic, because democratic system does not work in Afghanistan. If democratic system was to work, It would have worked in the past nineteen years. All the elections of Afghanistan had problems. Both the parliamentary elections and the presidential elections were full of frauds. None of the candidates were ready to accept the results. The winners of the elections were the people who had more money and more political relations as well as the trust of the countries, especially the United States. Other problem with the system was that corruption reached to its peak. Over the past nineteen years, people who worked in the government departments became owners of castles and millions of dollars, and those who were outside the government became poorer. The other problem of this government was poverty and unemployment. The government was not able to work for eliminating the poverty and unemployment. Afghanistan became the poorest country of the world. The other problem was that the government was propagating debauchery and prostitution, while Afghanistan is strictly an Islamic country and its people are very sensitive to such issues, but the government could not prevent prostitution and vice. So a number of people stood and took up arms against the regime because o

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We should be optimistic but careful. Although both sides’ actions and demeanor, particularly the Taliban’s demeanor, is not very reliable, we still hope that peace and security will come in the country.

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Peace is the desire of all of us.

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My viewpoint is that we cannot trust either the Taliban or the government. The Taliban seek the goals of the neighboring countries, while in the corrupt administration of Kabul, corruption, embezzlement, robbery, disregard for the rights of the poor, adultery, sodomy, falsity, and debauchery have reached their peaks.

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