January 24, 2019
ISLAMABAD — Hopes are running high that uninterrupted, extended peace talks between the United States and the Taliban in Qatar could set the stage for a politically negotiated settlement to the 17-year-old war in Afghanistan.
The talks opened Monday with the U.S. team led by Washington’s special representative for Afghan reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad. Pakistani and Qatari envoys also are present.
As the discussions entered a fourth day Thursday, highly placed sources told VOA the two sides have covered “significant” ground in their bid to reach an understanding on the two most difficult issues being negotiated in Doha, the capital of the Gulf state, where the Afghan insurgent group operates its political office.
The Taliban announced at the outset that its representatives would be seeking a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. and NATO-led foreign troops from Afghanistan, while the Taliban side would give assurances that Afghan soil would not be used to threaten the United States or any other country.
Sources anticipate the Taliban could announce a temporary cease-fire in the event of progress on its key demand of a foreign troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The peace dialogue started last summer and Pakistan reiterated Thursday it has brought the two sides to the table to help find a peaceful end to the increasingly bloody Afghan war. Islamabad insists it has convinced the Taliban to engage in a productive dialogue with the U.S. and the two negotiating teams would be solely responsible for its “success or failure.”
A Foreign Ministry spokesman confirmed Pakistan is represented at the talks but gave no further details about any possible breakthrough.
“Pakistan, as part of its shared responsibility, is facilitating the ongoing round of talks between [the] U.S. and the Taliban in Doha. Negotiations are between the two parties, that is the U.S. and the Taliban. Pakistan and Qatar are providing the necessary support and are facilitating the talks,” Mohammad Faisal noted.
Faisal insisted that “taking the Afghan peace process forward remained a shared responsibility.” He went on to say that “ultimately the intra-Afghan dialogue would be vital to agree upon the contours of a future Afghan policy where Afghanistan becomes a stabile and prosperous country and at peace with its neighbors.”
It was not immediately known whether Taliban negotiators have conceded any ground to American calls for them to engage in direct talks with the government in Kabul.
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