Doha/Kabul, 12 September 2020 (dpa/MIA) – The Afghan people were looking to the government and the Taliban to achieve peace at historic talks in Qatar, the head of the Afghan delegation, Abdullah Abdullah, said at the formal opening of the negotiations in Qatar.
“We have come here with the good will and good intention to stop the 40 years of bloodshed, and achieve a countrywide and lasting peace,” Abdullah said at a hotel in Doha.
“The legitimate demand of our people, and the aim of peace is to end the war and violence through a political settlement,” he said.
However, Abdullah also sounded a note of caution during his speech: “When the US and Taliban agreement was signed, the people became hopeful for a lasting peace, but unfortunately, since then, more than 12,000 Afghans have been killed and around 15,000 have been injured.”
A “humanitarian ceasefire must be announced” he said.
The head of the Taliban delegation, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, promised that his side would engage in the process with “full honesty,” and that the talks should be continued with “a lot of patience.”
His group was aiming for a future “Islamic Afghanistan” that had a positive relationship with the region and neighbouring countries, he said.
“The negotiations process will certainly be problematic,” Baradar added. “We assure the world that we will try to achieve a good result.”
Baradar added that the US must remain committed to the agreement it signed with the Taliban in February, which helped pave the way for the current talks. The deal envisaged the gradual withdrawal of international troops from Afghanistan.
Also speaking in the event, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that his country wants a sovereign, unified Afghanistan in peace with itself and its neighbours.
The Taliban must not allow international terrorism groups such as al-Qaeda to operate from Afghanistan, Pompeo said. The Taliban – which had previously ruled the country – was ousted from Kabul by the US-led invasion in 2001 which followed the September 11 terrorist attacks.
The peace negotiation were expected to start in earnest on either Sunday or Monday.
The talks were initially scheduled on March 10, but were delayed until the conclusion of a lengthy prisoner swap between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
In the swap process, some 5,000 Taliban prisoners, and 1,000 Afghan forces’ prisoners were released.