Afghan peace talks with Taliban begin

Negotiations will be arduous, delegates acknowledged at an opening ceremony in Doha, and are starting even as violence continues to grip Afghanistan.
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the leader of the Taliban delegation, and Zalmay Khalilzad, US envoy for peace in Afghanistan, shake hands after signing an agreement at a ceremony between members of Afghanistan’s Taliban and the US in Doha, Qatar.(Reuters)
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the leader of the Taliban delegation, and Zalmay Khalilzad, US envoy for peace in Afghanistan, shake hands after signing an agreement at a ceremony between members of Afghanistan’s Taliban and the US in Doha, Qatar.(Reuters)
Updated on Sep 13, 2020 01:34 AM IST
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Doha | ByAgence France-Presse | Posted by Prashasti Singh, Doha

Peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government opened in Qatar on Saturday, marking what US secretary of state Mike Pompeo heralded as a “truly momentous” breakthrough in nearly two decades of relentless conflict.

Negotiations will be arduous, delegates acknowledged at an opening ceremony in Doha, and are starting even as violence continues to grip Afghanistan.

Also read: Taliban, Afghan government to restart peace talks: All you need to know

“We will undoubtedly encounter many challenges in the talks over the coming days, weeks and months,” Pompeo said as he called for the warring sides to “seize this opportunity” to secure peace. “Remember you are acting not only for this generation of Afghans, but for future generations as well.”

Nineteen years since the US-led invasion that toppled the Taliban, Afghanistan’s war still kills dozens of people daily and the country’s economy has been devastated, pushing millions into poverty.

Abdullah Abdullah, who was previously Afghanistan’s chief executive and is heading the peace process for Kabul, said 12,000 civilians have been killed and another 15,000 wounded just since the US signed a withdrawal agreement with the Taliban on February 29.

Abdullah called for a humanitarian ceasefire - but his plea went unanswered by Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who made no mention of a truce in opening remarks.

The Taliban have long worried that reducing violence could lessen their leverage. Instead, Baradar repeated the insurgents’ message that Afghanistan should be run according to Islamic law.

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