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Doha talks entering new phase, says negotiator Fawzia Koofi

REPORT-4-01-12-2020-Afg

Peace negotiator Fawzia Koofi on Monday said the Doha talks have entered a new phase, but she did not offer further details. 

A 21-article set of procedural rules was finalized by both sides in the negotiations, according to sources, but sources said that the Presidential Palace has said it will not agree on the finalization of the procedural rules until the completion of the formation of the High Council for National Reconciliation. 

Some of the rules for the talks include the start of sessions with the recitation of the Holy Quran, breaks in sessions for prayers, seeking direction from the Sunnah and the Quran when disputes are encountered, and prayers at the end of each session. 

“I hope that at this new stage, the Taliban show more flexibility in addressing the demands of the people of Afghanistan,” Koofi said. 

The Taliban has said the US-Taliban deal, the UN decisions on peace and the demands of the negotiation teams have been accepted as the guidelines of the talks, but the government said that this issue needs more clarification. 

“Time is wasted. Peace will come, but, during this time, many people will lose their lives,” said Mawlawi Qalamuddin, head of Harakat-e-Inqilab-e-Islami party. 

Aides close to former president Hamid Karzai said that President Ashraf Ghani in his meeting with politicians this week said that he has “accepted” the procedures for the start of the peace negotiations. 

“The procedural rules have been approved and the negotiating teams of both sides will announce it,” said Shahzada Massoud, a former presidential adviser.

But the Presidential Palace denied this claim. 

Sources said that following chief negotiator Masoom Stanekzai’s trip to Kabul, the negotiating team has said that the procedural rules for the start of the talks will be finalized after the High Council for National Reconciliation led by Abdullah Abdullah is functioning. 

Sources also said that, recently, the Afghan government has called for the inclusion of the consultative Loya Jirga as a principle in the negotiations besides other matters, something that has not been accepted by the Taliban. 

This comes as defense ministers of NATO allies will discuss Afghanistan on Tuesday.  

“We have been there for almost two decades. And the country has come a long way. We now see a historic opportunity for peace. It is fragile, but it must be seized,” NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg told reporters at an online pre-ministerial press conference.