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A First Step In German Supported Afghan Peace Talks

First talks between Taliban and Afghahn government officials create sense of optimism

July 18th, 2019
Frankie Fraser, News from Berlin
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Between July 7th and 8th, the “Intra-Afghan Dialogue” session took place in Doha, Qatar. The 62 Afghans present were drawn from across society, with civil society, journalists, political party representatives, government officials, and the Taliban all in attendance. Of the 62, 11 delegates were women. Those attending acted “in their personal capacities”, as the Taliban refuses to recognize the incumbent government and therefore will not enter into official talks with them. Yet, these talks mark a key moment in the Afghan peace process, with it the first form of discussion between government officials and the Taliban.

To generate the environment for these talks, the German government played a crucial role, acting in the capacity of a co-host. The Germany envoy on Afghanistan, Potzel Markus, opened the discussions, declaring “We have taken the initiative for this dialogue to pave the way for peace in Afghanistan. Talks cannot be enough. Dialogue has to turn into meaningful negotiating process. Afghanistan’s future can only be determined by Afghans”. The German government also played a crucial role in getting the representatives to the talks, charting a plane to deliver the Taliban delegates to Doha. At the conclusion of the talks, the organizers released a joint statement, announcing “We hope that this event will mark the beginning of a meaningful process which will lead to a comprehensive and sustainable peace for Afghanistan”.

These talks built on the official visit to Germany by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan, Salahuddin Rabbani, late last month. During this visit, Mr. Rabbani thanked the German government for the warm welcome he received and the increasing role Germany has played in facilitating peace talks. During a meeting with the German Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Gerhard Müller, he emphasized his appreciation of the work by Germany in building the Afghan states’ capacity and in supporting its security services. Mr. Rabbini said “We want a peaceful and inclusive partnership for all the people of Afghanistan (men and women), the achievements in human rights and women are irreversible and irrefutable. Without the presence of our women, we will never develop, the national unity government will remain committed to its commitment to preserving its existing values.”

These sentiments were echoed through the talks in Doha. The Taliban leadership dined with female representatives, including one of their most prominent critics, Fawzi Kofi, a former MP of the lower house in the Afghan Parliament. They indicated a shift in their perspective towards women, committing to the protection of their rights within an Islamic framework. As there has been a growth of women’s position in society, now working freely in the government and private sector, this represents progress. In a joint resolution released following the conclusion of the talks, all parties committed to reducing civilian casualties “to zero” and to “ensure the security of schools, madrassas, hospitals, markets, dams and other workplaces.” In describing the outcome of the talks, Habiba Sarabi, one of the highest-ranking participants branded it a success, with him stating “Many differences were made clear in the two days, meanwhile, common points were recognized. These common points will provide ground for more trust and talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban for ending the war.”

It is hoped that these discussions provide a basis from which further talks can build, with Germany playing a key role as co-hosts in getting these initial talks to take place. The German Foreign Office reaffirmed their commitment to the talks, tweeting “Struggling for peace in #Afghanistan - Germany supports dialogue and confidence-building as prerequisites for genuine peace negotiations. #intraAfghanDialogue”.

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News from Berlin