Second round of Afghan peace talks likely next week

ISLAMABAD, July 25 (Xinhua) — The second round of Afghan peace talks are likely to be held next week, Pakistani and Afghan officials said Saturday.

The Pakistan-brokered first ever direct talks between the representatives of the Taliban leaders and Afghan government were held in the Pakistani scenic city of Murree on July 7. Both sides had agreed to continue talks and hold the second round after “Eid. ”

The Pakistani and Afghan officials have not said anything about the venue of the next round and discussions are going on to decide a venue. However, unnamed officials have been quoted as saying the talks could be held in Pakistan. Some sources say Qatar could also be a possible venue. A final decision is expected to be taken on Sunday.

Sources said a ceasefire would top the agenda as it would be a major trust-building step to carry the process forward.

Mediators are now establishing contacts with Taliban representatives in Qatar to involve them in the process.

The spokesman for Taliban’s Qatar office, Dr. Mohammad Naeem, had earlier told the media that the Taliban officials in Qatar were not part of the Murree talks.

Pakistan’s top foreign affairs adviser, Sartaj Aziz, was satisfied at the high level Taliban participation in the talks and that the Taliban leadership council had nominated the delegates.

Three senior Taliban leaders Mullah Abbas Akhund, Abdul Lateef Mansoor and Haji Ibrahim Haqqani, had taken part in the talks. The Afghan government delegation was headed by deputy foreign minister, Khalil Hekmat Karzai.

In Kabul, spokesman for the High Peace Council, Maulvi Shehzada Shahid, has said the next round could be held on July 30.

The peace talks received a major boost when the Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, backed the peace process as “legitimate” in his Eid message.


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