Intra-Afghan talks to begin in Doha on Saturday

The Qatar government has announced that the much awaited intra-Afghan talks between the Kabul government and the Taliban will begin in Doha on Saturday.

“The Afghanistan peace negotiations will commence in Doha on Saturday… These vital direct negotiations between the different Afghan parties represent a step forward in bringing lasting peace to Afghanistan,” Xinhua news agency quoted the government as saying in a statement on Thursday.

Mutlaq Al-Qahtani, special envoy of Qatar’s Foreign Minister for Counterterrorism and Mediation in Conflict Resolution, said the country has always placed “great value” in the power of diplomacy and direct dialogue to resolve disputes.

“We will continue our role to create stability in the region. We are thankful for the work and cooperation of all parties and international partners involved and their support,” Qahtani was quoted as saying in the statement.

The development was also confirmed by Mohammad Naeem Wardak, a spokesman for the Taliban delegation in Doha.

Responding to Qatar’s announcement, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that “this is an historic moment and Afghanistan’s best chance at ending 40 years of war and bloodshed”, TOLO News reported.

On Thursday night, the Presidential Palace in Kabul said the Afghan government delegation of will leave for Doha on Friday.

The opening ceremony will be attended by Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation; Mohammad Haneef Atmar, acting Foreign Minister; Abdul Salam Rahimi, the President’s special representative for peace; and Syed Sadat Mansoor Naderi, state minister for peace affairs to represent the government.

Meanwhile, an informed source told TOLO News that the six “hardcore” Taliban prisoners whose release was objected to by international allies were transferred from Kabul to Doha on Thursday.

The intra-Afghan talks were part of the historic agreement signed between the US and the Taliban on February 29.

The talks were to be held 10 days after the deal was signed but it kept getting delayed over the prisoner release issue between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

The government claimed that it has freed all the 5,000 Taliban inmates, while the militant group has also completed the release of 1,000 government prisoners.