KABUL: The long-anticipated intra-Afghan peace negotiations officially began in Doha, the capital of Qatar, on Saturday in the presence of international representatives and dignitaries.
The inaugural ceremony for the all-Afghan talks kicked-off in the Gulf country at 9:00 (local time) with opening remarks by Qatar’s deputy prime minister and foreign minister Sheikh Mohammad bin Abdul Rahman Al Thani.
His speech was followed by the Afghan High National Reconciliation Council (HNRC) Chairman Abdullah Abdullah, the Taliban’s political office head Mullah Abdullah Ghani Bardar and the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Heads of the United Nations, NATO, European Union (EU), Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and representatives of some countries also delivered speeches at the historic event through video conferencing.
During the occasion, the international community put all the responsibility on Afghans to seize the opportunity and write the next chapter in the history of Afghanistan by making peace. Mike Pompeo said the Afghans carried a great responsibility but they weren’t alone because the entire world wanted them to succeed, adding “We are prepared to support your negotiations should you ask.”
As all the sides used peace language and literature in their remarks, the key issues that were stressed included a ceasefire, women’s rights and participation, elimination of safe-havens for terrorists, pursuing national interests and the preservation of the gains over the past two decades.
Meanwhile, Abdullah is also slated to meet Taliban political office head Baradar, Qatari officials and envoys of different countries after the opening ceremony.
The direct intra-Afghan negotiations are expected to launch since Sunday and probably span over several rounds and months.
It’s the first-ever time in history that direct talks are taking place between the Afghan government and the Taliban face-to-face without mediators and facilitators.