Next round of Afghan-Taliban talks set for July 30

Second round of official talks to take place next week in China, Afghan officials announce

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

A member of the Afghan High Peace Council said on Friday that the second round of official peace talks between the Kabul government and the Taliban delegates will take place next week in China.

Mohammad Ismail Qasimyar announced that the two sides will meet on July 30 in Urumqi,  the capital of China's far-west Xinjiang region, adding that details and names of the attendants will be finalised in the coming days, Associated Press reported.

Qasimyar said the Afghan government will request a temporary cease-fire in the next round of face-to-face talks, aimed to end 14-year-long war.

"We are willing to enter into a cease-fire and it would be a good test to see if fighters on the ground are willing to accept a cease-fire directive from the Taliban leadership," he told AP.

Delegations from China and the US would observe the talks, as they did in the first official meeting this month, Reuters reported.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's deputy spokesman Zafar Hashemi said the government wants to include people "from all sectors of society" to new Afghan delegation.

Hashemi told AP that Ghani especially hopes women to be represented in the peace talks "because of the fears that people have had that the protections for women will be compromised in a peace deal."

The Afghan government met with Taliban representatives early this month in Pakistan's popular tourist resort of Murree near the country’s capital Islamabad for direct talks for the first time.

The Taliban delegation stuck to its key demand for the complete withdrawal of foreign forces from the conflict-ridden country, as well as the removal of Taliban names from the US and UN blacklists to travel freely. The issue of prisoners of war was also discussed during the first meeting.

Pakistan's military reportedly played a role in brokering landmark peace talks with the involvement of the heads of the army and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency, Reuters reported.

Pressure from a key regional ally and investor of Pakistan, China, is also seen an important factor in Islamabad's intervention.

Afghan Taliban's leader Mullah Omar supported "legitimate" peace talks with the government in an Eid message on Taliban’s website, in his first comments on the negotiation process. But he also urged Muslim leaders to unite and continue fighting until all foreign troops leave Afghanistan, adding that the talks aims to, "bring an end to the occupation."

However, it is reported that Afghan Taliban leaders are divided on talks and questioned the legitimacy of the Taliban representatives.

The talks started after the Taliban intensified its activities when the Afghan government signed a Bilateral Security Agreement with the United States and later inked a similar pact with NATO after the alliance’s international Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission ended at the end of 2014.

The US has pledged to keep an additional 1,000 soldiers in Afghanistan this year, bringing the number of its residual troops there to 10,800.

The Afghan government has negotiated with the Taliban in Qatar, China, Norway and Dubai in recent months to find a way to end the conflict which has resulted in the deaths of an estimated 40,000 civilians since 2001.

TRTWorld and agencies