Intra-Afghan peace talks ‘a test for both sides’: Zalmay Khalilzad

By Reena BhardwajWashington [US], September 12 (ANI): US Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad said on Friday (local time) he is hopeful that talks between the Afghan government and Taliban due to begin on Saturday would pave the way for a peace process and withdrawal of foreign troops after almost two decades of war and insurgency.

‘Hopefully (Aghanistan government and Taliban) come to an agreement on a political roadmap to end the protracted war that Afghanistan has had,” Khalilzad stated. Ambassador Khalilzad told journalists on a conference call on Friday that the negotiations would be a “test for both sides.”Adding that the United States would continue to monitor and engage with both sides, the special envoy said, “This is a new phase in diplomacy for peace in Afghanistan. Now we are entering a process that is Afghan-owned and Afghan-led.”The intra-Afghanistan peace talk is a product of the US-Taliban agreement which was signed on February 29 earlier this year. The agreement also has three other elements, one which is a timetable for phased and condition-based US withdrawal of forces; two, a commitment by the Taliban that they will not allow terrorist groups, including al-Qaida, to threaten the United States, US allies from the territories that they control and if they became part of a future government that commitment will continue; and the other key part was a comprehensive formal ceasefire. These will be one of the subjects of the negotiations between the two sides.

Negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government are set to kick off in Qatar on September 12. ANI learns that India is expected to be present at a ceremony in the Qatari capital Doha, one of the 30 countries that are expected to be present at the ceremony that officially begins the process of negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

Last week, the Afghan government and Taliban completed the prisoner exchange, which was a mandatory precondition to starting the intra-Afghan talks. France and Australia have objected to their release.

“This was an Afghan decision, a decision that was difficult, but necessary,” Khalilzad told reporters.

US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo has arrived at the Qatari capital of Doha to participate in the event. The Trump administration has been attempting to usher the Taliban and Afghan government towards negotiations, which would pave the way for the United States to finally withdraw from its longest war and hand President Donald Trump an important foreign policy success ahead of the November 3 US Presidential election. (ANI)

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