Sat. Apr 13th, 2024

Afghan government calls for ceasefire as peace talks with Taliban begin

Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. envoy for peace in Afghanistan, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani and Mutlaq Al-Qahtani, Special Envoy of the Foreign Minister of Qatar are seen during talks between the Afghan government and Taliban group in Doha, Qatar, September 12, 2020. /Reuters

Aaia, 2020 September 12, Saturday(CGTN)

The peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban group began in Doha, Qatar on Saturday.

With the purpose of ending the 19-year-long war in Afghanistan, the long-awaited peace negotiations are being held in the Qatari capital and the move follows a U.S. troops withdrawal agreement signed with the Taliban in February.

Among the key speakers at Saturday’s opening ceremony were Abdullah Abdullah, chairperson of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation, Taliban deputy leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation Secretary General Yousef Al Othaimeen, top EU diplomat Josep Borrell and the foreign ministers of India, Pakistan, China and Germany, among others, were also scheduled to speak at the opening session via videoconferencing.

The negotiations, where the two warring sides will sit face-to-face for the first time, will start on Monday.

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the leader of the Taliban delegation, speaks during talks between the Afghan government and Taliban insurgents in Doha, Qatar September 12, 2020. REUTERS/Ibraheem al Omari

If the two sides join hands “and honestly work for peace, the current ongoing misery in the country will end,” said the head of Afghanistan’s peace council.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, foreign minister of host Qatar, said the long-warring parties “must make the decisive decision in line with the current challenges and rise above all form of division by reaching an agreement on the basis of no victor and no vanquished.”

Baradar, meanwhile, repeated his group’s demand for the country to adopt an “Islamic system.”

Pompeo urged warring Afghan sides to seize the opportunity to strike a peace deal at the opening ceremony, saying that he hoped the solution would protect the rights of all Afghans.

The EU urged the parties via video message to accompany the start with an “immediate, comprehensive, nationwide and unconditional ceasefire,” and NATO chief Stoltenberg said that the organization is now adjusting its troop presence in Afghanistan to support the peace process.

The talks will require hard work and sacrifice, but through them an endurable peace is possible, Pompeo said of the Afghan war, which has vexed three U.S. presidents.

Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah speaks during opening remarks for talks between the Afghan government and Taliban insurgents in Doha, Qatar September 12, 2020. REUTERS/Ibraheem al Omari

The opening ceremony comes one day after the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States that triggered its military involvement in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, a total of 12 militants were killed as fighter jets struck a Taliban gathering outside Takhar’s provincial capital Taluqan city on Saturday, provincial government spokesman Mohammad Jawad Hajari said.

The airstrikes took place after the Taliban militants attacked a police patrol team in the area, leaving two dead and injuring six others, the spokesman said.

In the first six months of 2020, almost 1,300 civilians, including hundreds of children, have been killed in Afghanistan, according to the United Nations.

(With input from agencies)

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