Government Negotiation Delegation’s Return to Doha; the Intentions of the Parties to the Peace Talks to be Tested

The Ministry of State for Peace says a number of members of the government’s negotiating team will leave for Doha on Tuesday (June 1). The purpose of the delegation’s return to Doha is to resume intra-Afghan peace talks with the Taliban. The group’s delegation had proposed to the government to continue the talks at the Eid  al-Ftir meeting, and its members had promised to return to the negotiating table after the Eid. Meanwhile, government sources say that in addition to advancing the talks, the government’s negotiating team is assessing the Taliban’s intentions for peace. Thus, if the Taliban were committed to this process, then the government would rely on these negotiations to establish peace. Meanwhile, some politicians in the country have suggested that the parties continue the talks in Afghanistan. In addition, sources say that the task of establishing the High Council of Peace has not been clarified. Although, based on the information, the presidential palace has agreed to the council’s decision-making authority, the number of members of the council is still controversial. Some politicians have previously suggested that the number of members of the council be limited and that even Abdullah Abdullah, chair of the High Council for National Reconciliation, not be a member. However, President Ghani has said that a national consensus cannot be reached with a limited number of people and that the people must be included. It is worth mentioning that at least three compositions have been proposed for the High Council of Peace so far, but none of them is final.

Following the recent delay in the intra-Afghan peace talks, some members of the government’s negotiating team are scheduled to arrive in Doha today to resume the talks. About 10 members of the 21-member delegation will leave for Doha, the capital of Qatar, on Tuesday, Najiya Anwari, spokesperson for the government ministry for peace, told 8 Subh on Monday. She added that other members of the government’s negotiating team would join the group soon. According to Ms. Anwari, the delegations of the two sides had discussed the acceleration of the talks during the meeting on Eid and it was agreed that the parties would resume the talks after the Eid days. She further stated that the intention of the delegation is to advance the peace talks and that it will now return to the Qatari capital after receiving the views, suggestions, advice and concerns of the citizens.

Ms. Anwari said the delegation is committed to “serious progress in the negotiations” and that the resumption of talks is aimed at establishing a nationwide and early ceasefire and concluding the peace process. According to Ms. Anwari, the progress of the peace talks depends on the serious will of both parties, and the government’s negotiating team has this will. She also stated that no preconditions had been set by the Taliban for the start of talks and that the group wanted the talks to begin as soon as possible. He said the talks would resume where they left off. Thus, the two sides will discuss the preparation of the agenda of these talks during the next meetings.

It is worth mentioning that some politicians in the country have asked the parties to continue peace talks inside the country. Former President Hamid Karzai said at a Kabul peace summit on Monday that peace needs to be transformed from a foreign project into a national process. He expressed hope that the government and the Taliban would pursue talks inside the country. Meanwhile, some sources say that one of the goals of the government’s negotiating team during the talks is to assess the Taliban’s commitment to peace. It is worth mentioning that the government and the Taliban have been skeptical of each other’s will so far and have repeatedly accused each other of sabotaging the peace process.

One Fall Back of the Presidential Palace; the Council’s Creation still a Matter of Discussion

In another matter related to peace, efforts to establish a decision-making council at the government level have continued. The council, defined in the political agreement of May 17 last year as the “High Council of State”, has not started working despite efforts. Sources now say that although the presidential palace has agreed to the council’s decision, its composition is not yet final. Earlier, Hezb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, in a trilateral meeting with President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and former President Hamid Karzai, stressed the council’s decision-making authority. Salahuddin Rabbani, head of the Jamiat-e-Islami party, also stressed this. It should be noted that based on the information, the council in question, whose name has not yet been finalized, will decide the issues of war and peace and other important issues of the country.

At the same time, sources state that the composition of the council has not yet been finalized and no one’s presence is certain. So far, at least three compositions of 14, 18 and 28 members have been prepared, but no agreement has been reached. According to sources, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar had suggested during his tripartite meeting with President Ghani and Mr. Karzai that the council should not have more than six members. He initially opposed the presence of Abdullah Abdullah, Abdul Rab Rasul Sayaf, Abdul Rashid Dostum and Amrullah Saleh. However, Mr. Karzai’s insistence had led the Hezb-e-Islami leader to give the green light only to the presence of Mr. Abdullah and Mr. Sayaf and to agree to the formation of a eight-member council. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s proposal comes at a time when, according to a political agreement, the peace process should be led by Abdullah Abdullah within the framework of the Reconciliation Council.

It is worth mentioning that this council is formed for national consensus in the country. President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani also said on Thursday (May 27) that a major part of national strength is national consensus. However, he implicitly reacted to the insistence of some politicians that the composition of the council be limited, saying that the national consensus is not limited to individuals determining the future of the country, but that the people should have a share. According to the presidential palace, the composition of the council was supposed to be announced on Monday, May 31, but apparently the government has not yet been able to finalize the creation of this council.