“Ceasefire in Afghanistan is a major issue but we have not reached at a level [in the ongoing peace talks] where we will discuss this issue. So far we have not taken the first step towards the peace negotiations.”
This was stated by Dr Muhammad Naeem, spokesman for the Taliban’s political office in Qatar, in an interview with Gulf Times.
Violence rages in Afghanistan with no sign of a ceasefire as the Taliban and the Afghan government teams are yet to formally start the negotiations.
“We have not started the talks formally yet. We have not reached the ‘ceasefire stage’. We have been discussing the rules of procedure.”
Thanks Qatar for facilitating Afghan peace negotiations.
Though Dr Naeem, a member of the negotiating team, called the ceasefire a major step, the Taliban leader categorically said that they had not reached the stage where the issue could be discussed. It has been over a month now since the two sides started the intra-Afghan peace talks in Doha.
Asked about the issues obstructing the negotiation process, Dr Naeem said:
“We have not started the talks formally yet. We have been discussing rules of procedure. We have not yet discussed any issue that can create hurdles. I am however hopeful that we will make the headway. A certain timeframe cannot be given but we are hopeful to make progress.”
In response to a question, the spokesperson said that the ongoing intra-Afghan dialogue emanates from the US-Taliban peace deal signed in Doha in February.
“The deal with the US is a historic step and the intra-Afghan dialogue is its continuity. That is why we are here.”
When asked how far the Taliban can go to bring peace to the war-torn country, Dr Naeem said: “We are sincere for reconciliation and peace. We have shown this. We negotiated for about 18 months with the US government and reached at a conclusion. We will do whatever we can to have peace in the country. We will make progress.”
About the Islamic sharia, women’s rights and future political agreement in Afghanistan, the Taliban negotiator said that he could not say with surety that what kind of topics they would discuss in the coming days.
“We are yet to set the agenda for the negotiations. Once the agenda is set, we will be able to say that what we will discuss.” He added: “We, however, feel compelled to ensure that women get all the rights enshrined in Islam, whether it is their healthcare, education and work.”
Responding to a question about apprehensions of the international community regarding their ties with neighbouring countries, Dr Naeem reiterated the Taliban’s point of view that they would make sure their land is not used against other countries.
“We have time and again said that our policy is not to interfere in the affairs of other countries. We also expect other countries not to interfere in Afghanistan.”
The spokesperson hoped the US-Taliban deal will remain intact irrespective of the results of the upcoming elections in the US.
“Our deal is not with one person. We have signed the agreement with the US government. We think that the US wants to withdraw from Afghanistan. They have signed the peace deal for their own people and country. We hope that all political leaders of the US realise the importance of the peace deal and there will be no change.”
The Taliban spokesperson also thanked the Government of Qatar for hosting the intra-Afghan talks. “We appreciate the efforts of Qatar to bring peace in Afghanistan. We thank them for providing the platform for the talks.”
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