Stalemate in Peace Negotiations, Both Sides Seek Facilitator

Sources in Doha say that due to the lack of tangible progress in the intra-Afghan talks, the two sides are currently bargaining over the appointment of a facilitator and the definition of its tasks. A source familiar with the process says that the Taliban currently do not accept any document other than the Doha Agreement as a basis for advancing the negotiations. Thus, although negotiations between the two sides have practically reached a stalemate, meetings between the members of the government delegation and the Taliban to decide on a facilitator who can break the stalemate have continued. The Taliban have proposed Qatar as a possible candidate to facilitate negotiations. However, the United States, Germany, Norway, Uzbekistan, Indonesia, Qatar and the United Nations are also ready to facilitate the talks within the framework of the “Peace Process Support Network”. Although sources dismiss the appointment of a “mediator” in the current context, they say the two sides have already understood the need to appoint a mediator to continue the talks. In addition, although the issue of “taking a break” has been raised during the negotiations, it is not yet final and the two sides are currently discussing a timetable. It known that some members of the government’s negotiating team have returned to Kabul for various reasons.

Although about a month and a half have passed since the opening of the intra-Afghan talks, discussions between the two sides on the preparation of a negotiating agenda have not yet concluded. According to sources, Zalmai Khalilzad, the US Special Envoy for Peace in Afghanistan, is expected to return to Doha soon. However, the Qatari government and Mr. Khalilzad have so far not taken any steps to bring the two sides together to discuss the current stalemate. Some informed sources in Doha say that although the two sides oppose the presence of a mediator, they have already concluded that progress in the talks is impossible without the appointment of a facilitator. Thus, six countries and an international organization under the name “Peace Process Support Network” have declared their readiness to mediate, facilitate or monitor the talks. The United States, Germany, Norway, Uzbekistan, Indonesia and the United Nations, as well as host Qatar, are prepared to take responsibility for facilitating the talks. Although the Taliban have proposed only Qatar, sources say the government prefers to take up two or three of these options out of the current options. According to sources, the debate over what the facilitator of the negotiations will be doing is currently ongoing between the government and the Taliban. Although the issue of taking a short break from the talks has been raised, the two sides have not yet discussed it. So far, four members of the government’s negotiating team have returned to Kabul for various reasons. A reliable source says that among the members of the government negotiating team, Fawzia Kofi and Kalimullah Naqibi have traveled to the country due to illness, Sayed Sadat Mansour Naderi to attend to affairs of the State Ministry of Peace and Abdul Matin Beik to attend the funeral of his relatives. Ahmadullah Wasiq, deputy head of the Taliban Cultural Commission, said that all members of the Taliban negotiating team were present in Qatar and that there had been no discussion about a “pause” or “break”.

Another source in Doha told 8 Subh that, “negotiations are not possible without a third party.” This person added that the deadly Libyan conflict was resolved in six days, resulting in a nationwide, permanent ceasefire, as the talks between the two sides were facilitated. According to this credible source, so far there is no proposal in the intra-Afghan negotiations that can convince both sides, and even the host of the talks does not have the capacity to do so. The source added that Qatar and Zalmai Khalilzad have not yet done anything to resolve the current stalemate. Despite these issues, some members of the negotiating team do not consider the current situation to be deadlocked, because, according to them, the meetings between the two sides have continued. Prior to the talks, peace activists stressed the importance of mediation in an interview with 8 Subh, saying that it was “not possible” to conclude the complex Doha talks without mediation.

The intra-Afghan talks opened in Doha on the 12th of September with the presence of representatives from foreign countries. Although the two sides soon began discussing the preparation of the negotiation agenda, these discussions were eventually stalled. Determining the jurisprudential basis for resolving possible deadlocks in the negotiations and determining the basis for advancing the talks are among the issues on which the two sides disagree. Although delaying these issues has been raised in direct talks, the two sides have not yet agreed on it. Clashes between security forces and Taliban fighters have intensified since the beginning of the talks, adding to the importance of resolving the stalemate.