Afghan president announces team to hold peace talks with Taliban

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Afghan president announces team to hold peace talks with Taliban

Geneva, Switzerland – The Afghan government has formed a 12-member team to hold peace talks with the Taliban, President Ashraf Ghani announced in the Swiss city of Geneva.

“I’m pleased to announce today that after several months of intensive consultation with our citizens across the country, we have formulated a roadmap for peace negotiations,” he said at the two-day UN conference on Wednesday.

“The constitutional rights and obligations, of all citizens, especially women, should be ensured.”

The Afghan leader also announced that the negotiating team will be led by presidential chief of staff Salam Rahimi.

“The team includes women and men who have the necessary credentials to deal with the key challenges of peace negotiations”.

Ghani said that the is hoping for a peace agreement in which the Taliban would be included in a democratic and inclusive society but added that no organisation that has ties with “terrorist networks” will be allowed to join the political process.

The summit is billed as a platform for the Afghan government to renew its commitment to reform and discuss aid contributions in its bid to achieve stability and security.

The conference comes at a time when the United States administration is holding direct talks with the Taliban, Afghanistan’s largest armed group which was toppled following a US-led invasion in 2001.

The Taliban wants pullout of international forces as a pre-condition for talks.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the war that has dragged on for more than a decade and cost billions of dollars.

Earlier this month, Taliban officials held three days of talks with US special representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad in Qatar, aimed at renewing the peace process.

The Afghan government has not been involved in these talks.

Last week, a five-member Taliban delegation headed to the Russian capital, Moscow, to attend for the first time an international conference to discuss the Afghan peace efforts.

“A second phase (of discussions) should be held among Afghans (themselves) on how to bring about peace and form a government in Afghanistan,” Sohail Shaheen, a Qatar-based spokesperson for the Taliban, told reporters in Moscow last week.

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