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Afghan Taliban claimed some progress in peace negotiations with USA

10 May, 2019

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The Afghan Taliban on Thursday claimed “some progress” in peace negotiations with the United States, as both sides concluded another round of talks in Qatar, but failed to reach any agreement over the withdrawal of the foreign forces.

“Today, the 6th round of talks between IEA (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) and US negotiation teams ended, with some progress made on the draft agreement prepared in the last round of talks. Both sides will consult with their leaders and discuss the remaining points in the next round of talks,” Taliban political spokesman Suhail Shaheen said.

“In general, this round was positive and constructive. Both sides listened to each other with care and patience,” Shaheen wrote on Twitter.n He said both sides would come to the next round of talks after internal consultations and preparations to discuss points yet to be finalised.

No date has been announced for the next round, but sources say it could be held after Eidul Fitr.

Taliban sources in Qatar said lack of progress on the withdrawal of foreign forces was one of the major irritants to strike a deal. They said both sides had differences over the timeframe for the withdrawal, as the US had suggested some 18 months for withdrawal, while the Taliban wanted “complete withdrawal” in less than a year.

The Taliban are unwilling to strike any deal on any other issue unless the US announced withdrawal, and in return the Taliban will guarantee to prevent Afghanistan from being used against the US and other countries.

But US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad insists both sides should find “commonground on four inter-connected issues: troop withdrawal, counter-terrorism assurances, intra-Afghan dialogue & negotiations, and reduction in violence, leading to a comprehensive ceasefire”. He tweeted last week that nothing would be final until both sides agreed on all the four issues.

The 6th round of talks, which started on May 1,got tense at one stage, as suggested by one of Khalilzad’s tweets in which he asked the Taliban to “put down arms, stop the violence, and embrace peace”. On their part, the Taliban advised Khalilzad to “forget about the idea of us putting down our arms. Instead of such fantasies, he should drive the idea home (US) about ending the use of force & incurring further human & financial losses for the decaying Kabul administration”.

Sources said that as tension had heightened, Khalilzad met the Taliban political affairs chief, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, to defuse the tension.

Qatar, which acts as the mediator in the talks, also agreed with Khalilzad’s assertion regarding the four components of the framework agreement.

A Qatari Foreign Ministry statement had stated that both sides had agreed to discuss four issues in the previous rounds of talks. Meanwhile Pakistan reiterated support for the US-Taliban talks. Foreign Office Spokesman Mohammad Faisal said on Thursday that Pakistan “supports a political solution to the Afghan conflict and has consistently maintained the position that an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process is the only way forward”.

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