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Intra-Afghan talks finally begin in Doha

Intra-Afghan talks finally begin in Doha

The much awaited historic face-to-face talks between representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban began in Doha on Saturday after several delays.

The negotiations are intended to bring about a political settlement to a decades-long conflict that has taken many lives and destabilized the country, reports TOLO News.

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.

The opening ceremony will be attended by senior officials from different countries including US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and senior officials from the host country Qatar.

The 21-member Afghan team is headed by former intelligence chief Mohammed Masoom Stanekzai.

Abdullah will inaugurate the event with his opening remarks and will be followed by Taliban deputy leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and Pompeo, said the TOLO News report.

Meanwhile, Pompeo, who arrived in Doha on Friday night, said in a tweet that Afghans deserve a country that isn't at war, and "we are here to support them in building a roadmap to a peaceful future".

Mullah Mohammad Daud, a member of the Taliban's political office in Qatar who is attending the opening ceremony of the negotiations, says he is happy about the start of the talks, adding that "war is not good".

Before heading to Doha, Abdullah, said: "This is a historic day. I am hopeful that the talks could lead to ending the war and restoring lasting peace in Afghanistan."

Acting Foreign Minister Mohammad Haneef Atmar said a ceasefire will be the first topic in the talks.

"We hope that consensus is also built among the Taliban regarding peace," he added..