‘Afghan-Taliban Talks’, Both sides agree to reduce civilian casualties to ‘Zero’
DOHA: Two-day peace talks between Afghan delegates and Taliban representatives in the Doha, Qatar have ended with both sides calling to reduce civilian casualties to “zero” amid the rising death toll in Afghanistan.
Intra-Afghan dialogue, sponsored by Qatar and Germany, between Afghan leaders, members of civil society, including women, and the Taliban is seen as a significant step towards peace in Afghanistan.
Joint statement released at end of talks in Doha said, “Committed to respect and protect the dignity of people, their life and property and to minimise the civilian casualties to zero.” The statement also pledged to guarantee the security of public institutions.
The statement said, “Ensuring the security of public institutions, such as schools, religious madrassas, hospitals, markets, water dams and other working locations.”
A member of the Taliban delegation, Qari Din Mohammad Hanif, said that the group of Afghan delegates which also included members from the Afghan government was on the same page on civilian casualties.
He said, “Afghan people will be protected, we have always wanted this, they are never the target.”
He concluded, “We have all agreed to the fact that the civilians should not be affected, war continues, but our aim is to reduce civilian casualties to zero.”
‘Joint Statement Details’
Following the press briefing, several delegates and diplomats differed on details of the joint statement.
Some said that the statement was not an agreement but recommendations for peace, while others said it is “a call for peace and stability” or “a road map for peace”.
“We can’t call it a peace agreement, it is just a call for reduction of civilian casualties and protection of public places and institutions,” Anwar-ul-haq Ahadi, a former minister of finance said.
Markus Potzel, the ambassador from Germany to Afghanistan who co-hosted the talks with Qatar, said that the joint declaration included an “appeal and pledge to decrease violence in Afghanistan.”
The Taliban’s chief negotiator, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, said it was a “meeting where everyone expressed their opinions on peace in Afghanistan.”
He defended Sunday’s car bomb attack in Ghazni saying it was a “fight for freedom” against “foreign occupation”.
“Our target is not civilians, those who were killed in the attack were intelligence forces, only nearby houses were affected by the blast which injured civilians.”
The US-Taliban talks are set to resume today (Tuesday), which are aimed at hammering out details of a framework agreement reached in January.
The arrangement involves a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, a ceasefire and a Taliban guarantee that foreign forces will not be allowed to use the nation as a stage for foreign assaults.