Upcoming intra-Afghan talks raise hopes for peace

Kabul, Sep 12 (IANS) Talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban slated to take place in Doha on Saturday have raised hopes among the people of the war-torn country for peace after years of conflict.

The much-awaited intra-Afghan dialogue is scheduled to open in Doha at a ceremony to be attended by senior officials from different countries including US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and senior officials from the host country Qatar, reports Xinhua news agency.

The 21-member negotiated team headed by former Afghan intelligence chief Mohammed Masoom Stanekzai left for Doha from Kabul on Friday.

"I am very happy to see government peace delegation going to Doha for talks with Taliban to end the war in the country," a 41-year-old Kabul resident Karimullah Khan told Xinhua news agency.

Khan lamented that the prolonged war and militancy have destroyed his life and claimed the lives of his family members and relatives.

Fawzia Koofi, a member of the Afghan negotiating team, said she thinks the process will be complicated but added that she remains hopeful.

"As far as the Afghan war is multidimensional, all dimensions of this war should be considered in the talks," TOLO News quoted Koofi as saying.

Before heading to Doha, Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah, said: "This is a historic day. I am hopeful that the talks could lead to ending the war and restoring lasting peace in Afghanistan."

Acting Foreign Minister Mohammad Haneef Atmar said a ceasefire will be the first topic in the talks.

"We hope that consensus is also built among the Taliban regarding peace," he added.

The intra-Afghan talks were part of the historic agreement signed between the US and the Taliban on February 29.

The talks were to be held 10 days after the deal was signed but it kept getting delayed over the prisoner release issue between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

The government claimed that it has freed all the 5,000 Taliban inmates, while the militant group has also completed the release of 1,000 government prisoners.

–IANS

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