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Taliban representatives to join Afghanistan government-backed peace council

18 November, 2017

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ISLAMABAD: Taliban representatives will join members of the Afghanistan government-backed peace council, most probably in a Gulf country, to explore ways for finding a political solution to the conflict in Afghanistan, an invitee to the meet said Friday.

Nazar Mutmaeen, an Afghan political analyst, confirmed to mediamen from Kabul that the Afghanistan Peace Studies Organisation (APSO), a Kabul-based non-governmental organisation, would organise the meeting.

He said the meeting would be held in a Gulf country, which would be attended by Taliban political envoys in Qatar. “No date has been decided for the meeting; however, efforts are underway to hold it soon.” He did not offer more comments.

The APSO said in Kabul that the primary agenda of the meeting would be to remove obstacles to peace process and find ways to improve the trust deficit between the two sides and to move forward with mutual consent.

“In addition to this objective, other important issues such as protection of civilians during the armed conflict, role of women and youth in the peace process, freedom of press and other important issues such as health, education and human rights, would also be discussed,” according to Pajhwok news agency.

An Arab source, who was aware of the meeting, said the organisers had not provided complete information to the UAE that had annoyed officials there.

Taliban have long been demanding removal of the names of their leaders from the Security Council’s list so they can take part in peace efforts; however, their calls had not received a positive response from the Afghan government. President Ashraf Ghani and his Chief Executive Dr Abdullah Abdullah, on a number of occasions, had urged the United Nations to slap sanctions on the Taliban chief Maulvi Haibtullah Akhundzadah and others.

In December 2016, Kabul had angrily reacted to statement by Russia and China, permanent members of the UN Security Council, in which they reaffirmed their readiness for “flexible approaches to the prospect of excluding Taliban leaders from the list of sanctioned persons” as part of efforts to promote a peaceful dialogue between Kabul and the Taliban movement.

Taliban sources said political representatives would attend the meeting, as they “were encouraging unofficial meetings with fellow Afghans to explore ways for negotiated settlement of the problem”.

The UAE refusal of granting visas to some Taliban leaders show differences between the two sides. Relations between the Taliban and the UAE have been under pressure since the attack in Kandahar in January this year, which killed the UAE ambassador and five of its diplomats.

The Taliban had denied involvement and blamed the internal rift within the Afghan officials in Kandahar. There were suspicions about Kandahar police chief General Abdul Razaq as he had left the guesthouse just few minutes before the bomb went off. Despite the Taliban denial, some Afghan officials insisted that the Taliban were behind the deadly attack in the highly secured guesthouse of the Kandahar governor. A former Dubai police chief had suspected the involvement of Afghan officials in the attack.

Taliban had earlier good contacts with the UAE and the Taliban would also have meetings with officials of other countries in Dubai instead of Qatar.

As efforts are underway for unofficial meeting between the Taliban leaders and Afghan leaders, China has also intensified its diplomatic efforts for the peace process.

In this connection, Chinese Special Envoy for Afghanistan Deng Xijun Friday met the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa at the military headquarters in Rawalpindi, the military said.

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