Afghan peace talks: What top diplomats from US, Qatar, India said

Historic peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government have opened in Qatar, with the warring parties meeting face-to-face for the first time to end nearly two decades of conflict.

At the opening ceremony of the talks in Doha on Saturday, top diplomats from several other countries, including the United States, and representatives from global bodies such as the United Nations, made their opening remarks, many of them virtually because of the coronavirus restrictions.

In the negotiations that begin on Monday, the Afghan sides are expected to tackle issues including terms of a permanent ceasefire, the rights of women and minorities, and the disarming of tens of thousands of Taliban fighters and militias loyal to warlords, some of them aligned with the government.

They are also expected to discuss constitutional changes and power-sharing during the talks in Doha, where the Taliban maintains a political office.

The peace talks began a day after the 19th anniversary of the September 11 attacks in the US, which triggered its military involvement in Afghanistan in 2001.

Negotiations to broker a comprehensive peace deal were envisaged in a troop withdrawal pact signed between the US and the Taliban in February.

Here are the highlights of the remarks made by the top diplomats from participating countries in the opening ceremony:

Qatar

In his opening speech, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, the foreign minister of host Qatar, asked the Afghan parties to keep an open mind during the talks.

He said the long-warring parties “must make the decisive decision in line with the current challenges and rise above all forms of divisions and honour the ambitions and aspirations of their people … by reaching an agreement on the basis of no victor and no vanquished”.

“I hope you agree with me that today we must overcome the past and its pains … and focus on the future and the hope it brings us while surely drawing lessons from the past,” he said.

United States

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the talks are expected to be contentious, adding that the outcome is entirely up to the Afghans, and not the US.

“Each of you carry a great responsibility,” he told the participants. “You have an opportunity to overcome your divisions.

“We will undoubtedly counter many challenges in the talks over the coming days, weeks and months. Remember you are acting not only for this generation of Afghans but for future generations as well, your children and your grandchildren,” he said.

Negotiations to broker a comprehensive peace deal were envisaged in a troop withdrawal pact signed between the US and the Taliban in February.

Here are the highlights of the remarks made by the top diplomats from participating countries in the opening ceremony:

Qatar

In his opening speech, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, the foreign minister of host Qatar, asked the Afghan parties to keep an open mind during the talks.

He said the long-warring parties “must make the decisive decision in line with the current challenges and rise above all forms of divisions and honour the ambitions and aspirations of their people … by reaching an agreement on the basis of no victor and no vanquished”.

“I hope you agree with me that today we must overcome the past and its pains … and focus on the future and the hope it brings us while surely drawing lessons from the past,” he said.

United States

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the talks are expected to be contentious, adding that the outcome is entirely up to the Afghans, and not the US.

“Each of you carry a great responsibility,” he told the participants. “You have an opportunity to overcome your divisions.

“We will undoubtedly counter many challenges in the talks over the coming days, weeks and months. Remember you are acting not only for this generation of Afghans but for future generations as well, your children and your grandchildren,” he said.

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