Afghan president Ghani arrives in Qatar as peace talks drag on

Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani has arrived in Qatar for a bilateral meeting with leaders but will not meet Taliban officials even as peace talks are under way in the country’s capital Doha, officials said on Monday.

Negotiations between the Afghan government and Afghan Taliban that started last month aim to have the warring sides agree to a reduction of violence and a possible new power-sharing agreement in Afghanistan.

Violence, however, has not abated even as Afghan negotiators have been engaged in direct talks for the first time.

Scores of Afghan soldiers and Taliban fighters have been killed in intensive clashes and suicide attacks have left dozens of civilians dead in recent weeks.

On Monday, a suicide car bomber targeted the convoy of a provincial governor in eastern Afghanistan, killing at least eight people and injuring 30, including children, government officials said.

No armed group claimed responsibility for the latest attack.

Political analysts and diplomats in Kabul said Ghani’s trip is aimed at seeking Qatar’s support in getting the Taliban to agree to a ceasefire.

“Several meetings are planned to discuss efforts for deepening Afghanistan-Qatar ties and mutual cooperation in various areas,” an aide to Ghani said, adding he would also meet the Afghan representatives who are holding talks with Taliban.

“But it is clear that Ghani will not meet the Taliban officials as there has been no reduction of violence and they continue to kill innocent civilians,” said a senior Western diplomat overseeing the peace process.

The intra-Afghan talks are part of a February deal between the Afghan armed group and the United States that has cleared the way for US forces to withdraw from their longest war.

But, so far, there has been no progress as the warring sides have become bogged down in processes and procedures, diplomatic sources said.

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