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Afghans welcome government-Taliban talks with caution

<p id="content"> Afghans from all walks of life have largely welcomed the much awaited face-to-face talks between the Kabul government and the Taliban in Doha, but were cautious about the outcome of the "complicated process" to bring about lasting peace in the war-torn country after decades of conflict.

The intra-Afghan talks opened in Doha  at a ceremony attended by senior officials from different countries, including US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, reports Xinhua news agency.

The ceremony was inaugurated by Abdullah Abdullah, Chairman of Afghanistan's High Council for National Reconciliation.

A 21-member Afghan team, headed by former intelligence chief Mohammed Masoom Stanekzai, is meeting the Taliban delegation to find a negotiated solution to Afghanistan's prolonged war.

"The opening ceremony of intra-Afghan talks in Doha today is a golden opportunity and historic day for the people of Afghanistan to get maximum benefit to end the war in the country," Mohammad Shakir Zarbi, political analyst and editor-in-chief of the state-run daily Anis, told Xinhua.

Describing the talks a "complicated process" the analyst said: "The start of talks is a welcome step, but convincing the Taliban to accept the values and achievements that the country made over the past 19 years is difficult."

Echoing the notion, another local observer Khan Mohammad Daneshjo told Xinhua: "It is difficult to convince the Taliban group to recognize the government and support women rights, human rights, freedom of press and the progress that Afghanistan has made since the collapse of Taliban reign in late 2001."

However, Daneshjo, who is the editor-in-chief of Abadi daily, called the talks a "golden opportunity", saying: "We should be optimistic about the future of the country as the war is not the solution" and the Taliban would finally accept the ceasefire to accelerate peace talks with the government.

Nevertheless, the analyst said "observing ceasefire or reduction of violence by the Taliban" from today could be a test for the honesty of the armed group towards resolving the country's problems through political means.

"I was born in war, has grown in war, still living in war and now I am hopeful to see the success of the talks among Afghans to bring about peace in my country," street vendor Mohammad Ashor told Xinhua.

The intra-Afghan talks were part of the historic agreement signed between the US and the Taliban on February 29 also in the Qatari capital.

The talks were to be held 10 days after the deal was signed but it kept getting delayed over the prisoner release issue between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

The government claimed that it has freed all the 5,000 Taliban inmates, while the militant group has also completed the release of 1,000 government prisoners.