‘Next round of talks to focus on ending bloodshed’
They said their first round of direct talks on Tuesday ended on a positive note in the Pakistani capital Islamabad, where they met with key members of the Taliban’s Quetta Shura and the Haqqani Network.
Haji Azizullah Din Mohammad, Hikmat Khalil Karzai, Faizullah Zaki, Eng. Asim, Mohammad Nateqi and Farhadullah represented the Afghan government in the nascent talks in Murree.
Din Mohammad, who headed the Afghan delegation, told reporters in Kabul the parlays took place in a friendly atmosphere with commitments to resolve problems through peaceful means.
He said they had agreed to prepare lists of demands and discuss a mechanism to end the war in the next round of talks.
Din Mohammad said face-to-face talks had been a major demand of the Afghan government. He said former president Hamid Karzai had been trying for a direct contact with the Taliban, a process inherited by his successor Ashraf Ghani, who rigorously followed it.
He said since the talks were a first direct contact, they considered it a step forward in accelerating the peace process in the country.
The Taliban were reportedly represented by Mullah Mohammad Hassan Rahmani, Mullah Abdul Jalil Akhund, Mullah Mohammad Abbas Akhund, Haji Ibrahim Haqqani, Mullah Abdul Razaq Akhund, Mullah Eisa Akhund and Maulvi Abdul Latif Mansour at the meeting that was observed by the US and China.
Afghan representatives, without naming any Taliban representative, said the talks took place with high-ranking Taliban members representing the Haqqani Network and the Quetta Shura.
Hikmat Khalil Karzai, deputy foreign minister and the Afghan delegation’s deputy head at the talks, said the Taliban representatives who attended the talks were fully authorized by the Quetta Shura and by Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, acting head of the Taliban leadership council.
“I was assured and it was also discussed in the talks that the Taliban negotiators were fully authorized. I think there are some differences between them but that is their internal matter. It is our hope that in the next sessions we will talk to all their members,” Karzai said.
He said the Taliban representatives raised the issues of Taliban prisoners, removal of their leaders’ names from the UN blacklist, withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan and Constitutional amendments as their main proposals.
But Khalil Karzai noted: “We attended the meeting with goodwill and authority. We had no prerequisite for starting negotiations and every matter is discussable.”
“But we will talk about a process in the next round of talks to end bloodshed in the country. We are ready to discuss any issue the Taliban want including prisoners and foreign troops.”
If the Taliban wanted their prisoners freed, he said, the government was ready, but there should be a guarantee that they wouldn’t return to violence.
Karzai said end to heavy attacks, preparation of list of demands, pursuing confidence-building measures and how to end the war were discussed and suggestions floated.
Eng. Asim, another member of the delegation, said it was agreed that the second round of talks would take place after the holy month of Ramadan and they were in contact to decide the venue for negotiations.
It is said the next round of talks would take place in China.
Faizullah Zaki said all the conflicting points were negotiable, including constitutional amendments except changes in the first and second chapters of the document.
He said the first and second chapters of the Constitution were red lines and could not be negotiated.
Din Mohmmad said: “Because we are also at war with the Haqqani network, it is necessary to talk to them as well. We should talk to anyone who fights and has differences and it was our demand to talk to the network.”
Most of bloody suicide attacks and bombings in Afghanistan have been blamed on the Haqqani network.
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