US, Russia Expect Immediate Start to Initial Intra-Afghan Talks

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Kabul: (Raja Furqan Ahmed) Afghanistan, Russia and the US in a trilateral meeting on Monday “expect that an initial meeting between the negotiating teams must be held immediately to agree on agenda and next steps,” Afghanistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) said in a statement. The trilateral meeting of Afghanistan, Russia and the US was held via video teleconference on Monday with the participation of the Special Presidential Envoy of the Russian Federation for Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, the US peace envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, and Afghanistan’s acting foreign minister, Hanif Atmar. The three countries, reiterating their strong commitment to an Afghan-owned peace process and support for safeguarding Afghanistan’s achievements over the past 19 years, agreed as follows: The Russian and the US Governments welcome the Afghan Government’s commitment and progress towards releasing of the Taliban prisoners as a necessary step towards early start of the intra-Afghan negotiations. The parties call on the Taliban to reciprocate the Afghan Government’s move by releasing all Afghan Government prisoners held by them consistent with their commitment in the Doha Agreement. Recognising the importance of ensuring a positive atmosphere for the impending negotiations, the parties call for a significant reduction in violence as a confidence-building measure. The Afghan Government’s proposal concerning the establishment of a monitoring mechanism for compliance with ‘Reduction in Violence (RiV) measures and to ensure mutual accountability overall through the peace process is a positive contribution. The parties welcome the readiness of both sides to the intra-Afghan negotiations for an early start of the negotiations and expect that an initial meeting between the negotiating teams must be held immediately to agree on agenda and next steps. Consistent with the Doha Agreement, the parties expect that achieving a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire will be included in the agenda of the intra-Afghan negotiations at the outset. The parties agree on the importance of regional and international cooperation as key to sustaining the intra-Afghan negotiations and ultimately to the success of the peace process. In this context, the parties call for further consultations through existing or new inclusive regional and international mechanisms aimed at further strengthening regional and international consensus in support of the peace process. The parties agree to meet again in this Trilateral format to discuss the progress made in the intra-Afghan negotiation process. Schedule and details of the next meeting are to be determined through diplomatic channels. On Monday, An official of the State Ministry for Peace Affairs said they expect the initial session of the intra-Afghan negotiations to begin in the near future, although the Taliban has previously stated that the process will not begin until the completed release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners detained by the Afghan government, as called for in the US-Taliban agreement signed in February. The Afghan government has so far released 3,005 Taliban prisoners and has vowed to complete the release of 5,000 inmates to open the way for the direct talks between a team from the Afghan government and the Taliban. Initially, the talks will take place in Qatar, said, officials. A spokesman for the State Ministry for Peace Affairs, Najia Anwari, said the government’s negotiation team is ready to attend the talks and has taken measures to thwart coronavirus threats. The release of Taliban prisoners, the start of the intra-Afghan negotiations and the creation of a national and international consensus on Afghan peace will be the main agenda of the talks, said Gran Hewad, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.