US, Taliban ‘Finalize Draft Deal’ to End 17-year-long Conflict in Afghanistan

Taliban negotiators and United States officials meeting in Qatar on Saturday finalised clauses to be included in a draft agreement to end the 17-year-old Afghan war, according to Taliban sources.

Details provided by the sources include apparent concessions from both sides, with foreign forces to be withdrawn from the country in 18 months from the future signing of the deal.

US special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is heading to Afghan capital Kabul to brief President Ashraf Ghani after the end of the six-day talks, the sources and a diplomat said.

It is unclear whether a joint statement will be issued, or whether the provisions have been fully accepted by the US side.

According to sources, Taliban offered assurances that Afghanistan will not be allowed to be used by al Qaeda and Islamic State militants to attack the United States and its allies – a key early demand of Washington.

The Taliban say that they will finalise a timeline for a ceasefire in Afghanistan but will only open talks with Afghan representatives once the ceasefire is implemented.

Other clauses include a deal over the exchange and release of prisoners from the warring sides, the removal of an international travel ban on several Taliban leaders by the United States and the prospect of an interim Afghan government after the ceasefire is struck, the Taliban sources said.

Last week, Pakistan and the United States agreed to push for the ‘intra-Afghan dialogue’ to seek a political solution to the lingering war in Afghanistan, even as both sides struggled to convince the insurgents for direct talks with the Kabul administration.

US envoy hails ‘significant progress’ in Taliban talks

“Meetings here were more productive than they have been in the past. We made significant progress on vital issues,” Khalilzad tweeted after six days of talks with the Taliban in Qatar.

1/3 After six days in Doha, I’m headed to #Afghanistan for consultations. Meetings here were more productive than they have been in the past. We made significant progress on vital issues.

— U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad (@US4AfghanPeace) January 26, 2019

2/3. Will build on the momentum and resume talks shortly. We have a number of issues left to work out. Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, and “everything” must include an intra-Afghan dialogue and comprehensive ceasefire.

— U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad (@US4AfghanPeace) January 26, 2019

3/3. Thanks to the Government of #Qatar for their constructive engagement and their facilitation of this round of talks. Particularly the Deputy PM and FM @MBA_AlThani_ for his personal involvement.

— U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad (@US4AfghanPeace) January 26, 2019

This article was originally published by Reuters” 

 

The 21st Century

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