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Intra-Afghan talks in Doha widely welcomed

By: The Kabul Times

KABUL: Peace talks between the Taliban and the delegation representing the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan began in Qatar on SaAturday with officials from many nations and international organizations attending or speaking virtually at the opening ceremony.
Officials from Qatar, the US, Norway, Turkmenistan, China, Indonesia, Uzbekistan, Turkey, Germany, Pakistan, India, Iran, Spain, Finland, UK, Japan, the UN, NATO and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) gave opening remarks via videoconference.
Qatar’s foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani in his opening remarks said that there will be no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan.
“History has taught us that military force cannot decide any conflict in Afghanistan and that the only means to that end is an immediate and permanent ceasefire and opening the way for a constructive dialogue through the negotiations table to reach a comprehensive political settlement,” said the Qatari foreign minister.
“Today we must overcome the past and its pains and focus on the future,” he said, stating that all Afghan factions should come together and seize the opportunity and work for the interests of Afghanistan.
Speaking at the event, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that it is a historic occasion as Afghans take a major step forward in their long quest for peace. “A new dawn is upon us,” said Qureshi.
Qureshi said “Pakistan has fully facilitated the process that culminated in the US-Taliban Peace Agreement in Doha on February 29, 2020 and has reached this juncture,” Qureshi said. Qureshi said that Pakistan has long maintained that there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan. A political solution is the only way forward.
“It is now for the Afghan leaders to seize this historic opportunity, work together constructively, and secure an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement,” he said. Qureshi warned that spoilers, from within and from without, will pose formidable challenges.
“At this historic juncture, it is imperative that the mistakes of the past are not repeated. The Afghan people must not be abandoned, as happened before. The progress achieved must not be frittered away,” added Qureshi.
Meanwhile, Ine Marie Eriksen Søreide, the Norwegian minister of foreign affairs at the event said that it is a day of hope for all who share the goal of finding an end to Afghanistan’s four decades of conflict.
“In order to get to the table, you have made difficult decisions, compromises, and sacrifices. Thousands of prisoners have been released as a confidence-building measure,” she said.
“I hope that a spirit of compromise and flexibility on all sides will be present throughout the negotiations,” the Norwegian foreign minister said.
She said that the inclusion of women, victims, minorities and other stakeholders in the peace process is important to ensure ownership and the successful implementation of a future peace accord.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also addressed the opening ceremony and he called it an historic day for Afghanistan. “With the start of intra-Afghan negotiations, we are entering a new phase of the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process,” said Stoltenberg.
He said that Afghans want peace and so does the international community, which has supported Afghanistan on this long, hard road. “Much has been sacrificed along the way. By Afghans, and our own troops. These sacrifices were not made in vain. Afghanistan is no longer a safe-haven for international terrorists,” the NATO chief said.
He said that the Afghan government and representatives of the Taliban have demonstrated the will to engage with each other. “We are now adjusting our troop presence in Afghanistan to support the peace efforts. At the same time, we remain committed to training and funding the Afghan Security Forces to help safeguard the Afghan people,” said Stoltenberg.
“The European Union welcomes the launch of the direct Intra-Afghan Negotiations between the Government of Afghanistan and the Taliban movement,” said High Representative of the European Union for Foreign and Security Policy / Vice-President of the European Commission, Josep Borrell.
He said that this marks the start of a genuine peace process, which should lead to the peace that the people of Afghanistan deserve and have long demanded. “To achieve this, the European Union is working with all parties. We want to ensure that peace negotiations are inclusive and respectful of the wish of Afghans to live in a peaceful, secure and prosperous country. A country with economic development and growth, providing new opportunities for its citizens, where rights are upheld and vulnerable groups are protected,” said Josep Borrell.
“This process must now be truly owned and led by Afghans. International partners must respect Afghanistan’s sovereignty and independence when supporting these negotiations, It must preserve and build on the political, economic and social achievements of the citizens of Afghanistan since 2001, especially on women’s rights,” he said.
Dr. Yousef A. Al-Othaimeen, the chairman of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), said that the organization strongly supports the peace process in Afghanistan, stating that over the last one and a half years, OIC has asked all Afghan stakeholders to engage in dialogue.
Suzuki Keisuke, Japan’s state minister for Foreign Affairs said: Japan supports an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process and urges the negotiation process to solve all disputes through constructive talks.
UK Minister for South Asia, Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon said: the United Kingdom firmly believes that a political process is the only way to bring lasting peace to Afghanistan.
The Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement announced to the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process. “The Islamic Republic of Iran welcomes the start of intra-Afghan talks between the Afghan government, political factions and the Taliban and hopes that these negotiations lead to the desired results for lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan and in the region,” said the statement.
The Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement announced to the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process. “The Islamic Republic of Iran welcomes the start of intra-Afghan talks between the Afghan government, political factions and the Taliban and hopes that these negotiations lead to the desired results for lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan and in the region,” said the statement.
Meanwhile, External Affairs Minister of India S Jaishankar on Saturday participated in the inaugural session of the intra-Afghan negotiations held in Doha via video conference.
In his address, Jaishankar referred to the millennia-old relationship between India and Afghanistan, which he said had withstood the test of time. Jaishankar also highlighted India’s role as a major development partner of Afghanistan with over 400 projects completed in all the 34 provinces of Afghanistan.

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