ISLAMABAD: The first officially acknowledged peace talks between the Afghan Taliban and the government in Kabul concluded with an agreement to meet again after Ramazan.
In a statement released on Wednesday evening, after the high peace council returned to Kabul, the Afghan government welcomed the official beginning of negotiations with the Taliban, expressing the hope that it would begin a process to avert further bloodshed of innocent Afghans and destruction of the country and ensure “dignified peace and permanent stability in the country and region.”
“The will and intention of the sides being deemed an essential principle to the success of the peace negotiations, the Afghan people are hopeful that the negotiations continue with good intentions and determination.”
It added that a second round of talks will be held after Ramazan ends.
Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai led a four-member delegation that includes representatives of the High Peace Council and advisers to the Afghan president and the chief executive.
A three-member Taliban team took part in the talks. However, as of now, all sides are silent over the names and positions of the participants from the Taliban side.
Taliban vague on outcome of talks
Separately, the Afghan Taliban issued a vague statement following the talks sans any mention of Pakistan.
“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan regularly undertakes reforms in its organisational structure and officials’ capacities to further its political objectives. Such organisational reforms have been the norm in Islamic Emirate’s policies since the Islamic Movement’s inception,” the Taliban said.
It is believed that the first part of this Taliban statement indicated temporary empowerment for some of the group’s leaders outside their political office to hold peace talks.
“On this basis, from now onwards all of Islamic Emirate’s foreign and internal political affairs are entrusted to the Islamic Emirate’s Political Office as their sole responsibility. The Political Office has full capacity and agency powers to conduct or postpone, in light of Islamic principles and national interests, negotiations with internal and foreign parties wherever and whenever its deems suitable,” the Taliban statement further said.
The second part of the Taliban statement, however, reiterated their longstanding stance that only the Qatar office had the power to pursue political affairs, including peace talks.
A spokesperson for the Taliban’s Qatar office, Dr Muhammad Naeem, however distanced the office from the meeting held in Murree. He claimed in a statement to a pro-Taliban website “nunn.asia” that no Qatar-based member was part of the Murree talks.
Pakistan welcomes talks
Earlier, Pakistan too had welcomed the talks, expressing gratitude to the government of Afghanistan and Tehreek-e-Taliban Afghanistan for their willingness to work towards bringing lasting peace in Afghanistan.
“The next meeting will be held at a mutually convenient date after Ramazan,” a Foreign Office spokesperson said in a statement.
The Pakistani government had hosted the talks in Murree on Tuesday along with the US and China, marking the first time the two Afghan sides had came face-to-face since President Ashraf Ghani assumed office in September last year.
Read: Taliban, Afghan government talk 'peace' in Islamabad
The Pakistani foreign office though referred to the Talibans as ‘Tehreek-e-Taliban Afghanistan’, a term that has not been heard before. The Talibans, however, continue to refer to themselves as the ‘Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’, the official name for Afghanistan under the Taliban government.
Earlier, Pakistan officially confirmed it hosted the talks hours after the Taliban and Afghan government met in Murree.
“As part of the commitment to facilitate an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process, a meeting was hosted by Pakistan between the Afghan Government and Tehreek-e-Taliban Afghanistan representatives,” a Foreign Ministry statement said.
The meeting was held in Murree on July 7 in which representatives of China and the USA also participated.
“The participants were duly mandated by their respective leadership and expressed their collective desire to bring peace to Afghanistan and the region,” the statement claimed.
Read: US welcomes Afghan-Taliban talks: White House
It said the participants exchanged views on ways to bring peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan, adding it was agreed that for lasting peace in the region, each side would approach the process in sincerity and with full commitment.
“The participants recognised the need to develop confidence building measures to engender trust among all stakeholders.”
The Foreign Office expressed its gratitude to the Afghan government and the Taliban for their efforts as well.
“We also thank other partners in peace, including the United Nations, for their contribution to peace, stability and development of Afghanistan.”