ISLAMABAD -- The Afghan government and the Taliban have resolved key sticking points that had stalled peace talks for weeks, several sources told AFP on Friday (November 20), clearing the way for negotiations to move forward.
The negotiations started September 12 in Doha, Qatar, but almost immediately faltered over disagreements about the agenda, the basic framework of discussions and religious interpretations.
However, following days of sideline discussions, it appears negotiators have now cleared the way for full peace talks to get under way.
"Sufficient progress" has occurred, a senior Taliban leader based in Pakistan told AFP on condition of anonymity.
"We are close to an announcement and initiation of formal talks," he said.
"A joint statement will be issued soon," he added, saying the announcement could come in the next few days.
Both sides have agreed on the basic rules to begin formal talks, a second Taliban source in Pakistan confirmed. A third source close to the Taliban confirmed the development.
Both teams have now resolved several disputed issues, opening the path for talks to advance, an Afghan official close to negotiators in Doha told AFP.
Several members of the Afghan government's negotiating team recently returned to Kabul for final consultations, after which President Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, who is heading the peace process for Kabul, are expected to announce a breakthrough, the official said.
Among the sticking points so far, the Taliban and the Afghan government have struggled to agree on common language on two main issues.
The Taliban, who are Sunni hardliners, are insisting on adherence to the Hanafi school of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence, but government negotiators say this policy 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 Doha peace talks opened after the Taliban and Washington signed a deal in February, with the United States agreeing to withdraw all foreign forces in exchange for security guarantees and a Taliban promise to start talks.
Despite the talks, violence has surged across Afghanistan, with the Taliban stepping up daily attacks against Afghan security forces.