Afghan-Taliban talks conclude in Qatar with 'roadmap for peace'
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An All-Afghan conference in Qatar that brought Afghanistan's warring sides together concluded with a joint statement issued early Tuesday approving a “roadmap for peace” to try to end nearly 18 years of war.
In a communique finalised in the early hours Tuesday, a much touted two-day meeting in the Qatari capital, Doha, attended by Taliban members, representatives of Afghanistan's government, women and civil society groups, agreed a post-war Afghanistan would have an Islamic legal system, protect women's rights "within the Islamic framework of Islamic values," and ensure equality for all ethnic groups.
Qatar’s foreign ministry declared the talks a “success" with a statement dated Monday and published on Tuesday noting, "We are very pleased today to reach a joint statement as a first step to peace".
Washington is hoping the details of the roadmap can be decided by September 1, allowing for the withdrawal of US and NATO troops from Afghanistan.
The "roadmap for peace" is based on the opening of a monitored peace process, return of internally displaced people, and non-interference by regional powers in Afghanistan.
The statement also assured “women’s rights in political, social, economic, educational, cultural affairs as per (and) within the Islamic framework of Islamic values".
"It's not an agreement, it's a foundation to start the discussion," delegate Mary Akrami, executive director of the Afghan Women's Network, told AFP. "The good part was that both sides agreed."
others looked at the future as an opportunity and hope. This dialogue brought us all closer and also gave us a better understanding of the issues at stake. What is crucial is that we were able to related and why wouldn’t we? At the end, we are all AFGHANS. 2/2 pic.twitter.com/HsCzqGmXmOHekmat Khalil Karzai (@HekmatKarzai) July 9, 2019
The joint communique came just two days after a devastating Taliban attack near an Afghan intelligence compound in the central Ghazni province killed at least 12 people and wounded dozens, including students of a nearby school.
Applause greets announcement
The Taliban's Amir Khan Mutaqi, a former minister during the militant group's 1996-2001 rule of Afghanistan, read a Pashto version of the roughly 700-word statement.
Habiba Sarabi, deputy chair of the Afghan High Peace Council established by former president Hamid Karzai to engage elements of the Taliban, read the Dari equivalent.
Around 70 delegates attended the gathering at a luxury hotel in Doha and the large meeting room erupted into applause after the joint statement had been read out shortly before 2100 GMT.
"The differences is almost so narrow... we are quite frankly surprised how serious both sides are and they are so committed to putting an end to this conflict," said Qatar's counter-terrorism special envoy Mutlaq al-Qahtani.
Sidelining Ghani’s government
The so-called intra-Afghan meetings follow six days of direct US-Taliban talks that were put on hold for the two-day Afghan conference.
US lead negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad has said that the latest round of US-Taliban talks "have been the most productive of the rounds we've had with the Talibs".
"We want a stable Afghanistan," he told reporters on the sidelines of the dialogue on Monday.
"Afghans meeting with the Taliban was a big success."
The US did not participate directly in the two-day Afghan summit, which was attended by political heavyweights, government officials and at least six women.
The Taliban have steadfastly refused to negotiate with the government of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, members of which only took part in a "personal capacity".
Ghani's administration, which the Taliban consider a puppet regime, has also been excluded from the direct US-Taliban talks.
The latest Doha meeting was the third such meeting following landmark summits in Moscow in February and May.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and Reuters)