DOHA -- President Ashraf Ghani on Tuesday (October 6) called on the Taliban to "have courage and declare a national ceasefire" as he visited Doha where peace talks between government and Taliban negotiators have slowed.
At the end of a two-day trip, his first to Doha since the talks began, Ghani gave a lecture where he said Afghanistan's long conflict had to be resolved through negotiation, "not under the barrel of the gun".
"Nobody is going to wipe you out," he said in front of a socially distanced crowd of diplomats and academics, three weeks after the launch of peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
Talks between the two sides have slowed over disagreements on how to frame a code of conduct that will guide the broader talks.
Headline issues, including a ceasefire or the type of governance that will shape Afghanistan's future, have yet to be discussed.
Meanwhile, violence continues to rage in Afghanistan, with a suicide attack targeting Laghman Governor Rahmatullah Yarmal, killing at least eight people and wounding 28 on Monday (October 5).
Yarmal was unhurt, governor's spokesman Assadullah Dawlatzai told AFP.
On Saturday (October 3) at least 15 people, mostly civilians, were killed and more than 40 others wounded in a truck bombing that targeted a government building in Nangarhar Province, officials said.
A suicide bomber detonated the vehicle full of explosives at the entrance of an administrative building that also housed some military facilities in Ghani Khel District, governor's spokesman Ataullah Khogyani told AFP.
"As a result, 13 civilians including one woman and four children were killed," he said. "Two members of security forces were also killed."
Forty-two people, including four security force members, were wounded, he said, adding that several armed attackers who tried to enter the building after the assault were killed by security forces.
At least 14 civilians, including seven women and five children, were killed by a roadside bomb in Daikundi Province on September 29, said Ministry of Interior Affairs spokesman Tariq Arian.
Three children were wounded, he added, blaming the Taliban.
Opportunity for peace
In Doha, Ghani discussed the peace process with Qatar's emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, who reaffirmed Doha's commitment to facilitate it.
The talks, which began with much fanfare after months of delays, have made little progress, but Ghani sidestepped questions over whether they have stalled.
"We cannot end 20 years of war in 20 days," he told reporters as he left the lecture.
Earlier, Afghan Acting Foreign Minister Muhammad Hanif Atmar reiterated that no agreement had been reached by the two sides on the code of conduct that will govern the talks.
The Taliban and the Afghan government are struggling to agree on common language on two issues before they can establish an agenda.
The Taliban, who are Sunni hardliners, are insisting on adherence to the Hanafi school of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence, but government negotiators say this could be used to discriminate against Hazaras, who are predominantly Shia, and other minorities.
Another contentious topic is how the US-Taliban deal will shape a future peace deal and how to refer to it.
"The Afghan team have presented a number of counter-proposals to find common ground," Atmar said, but "they have not reached an agreement on the two issues".
"Definitely things take time," Khairullah Khairkhaw, a senior member of the Taliban negotiating team, told reporters in Doha.
"There are many issues, 20 or more, that need clarity," he said.
No official meetings have taken place between the two sides in almost a week. However, both have insisted they continue to informally discuss ways to move forward.
Also in Doha, US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad tweeted after a meeting with Ghani that the "president should not let the opportunity for peace to slip away" and that the United States remains ready to assist.