Peace talks between the Taliban and the delegation representing the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan began in Qatar on Saturday with officials from many nations and international organizations attending or speaking virtually at the opening ceremony.
Officials from Qatar, the US, Norway, Turkmenistan, China, Indonesia, Uzbekistan, Turkey, Germany, Pakistan, India, Iran, Spain, Finland, UK, Japan, the UN, NATO And the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) gave opening remarks.
Qatar's foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani in his opening remarks said that there will be no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan.
“History has taught us that military force cannot decide any conflict in Afghanistan and that the only means to that end is an immediate and permanent ceasefire and opening the way for a constructive dialogue through the negotiations table to reach a comprehensive political settlement,” said the Qatari foreign minister.
“Today we must overcome the past and its pains and focus on the future,” he said, stating that all Afghan factions should come together and seize the opportunity and work for the interests of Afghanistan.
Abdullah Abdullah, the head of the High Council of National Reconciliation, during his opening remarks said that all Afghans have a desire for peace. Abdullah also thanked the Taliban for engaging in the intra-Afghan talks. "We have come to this country (Qatar) on the basis of the principles of our beloved religion Islam and on the basis of our proud nation's determination for achieving a durable and dignified peace. Our people want a constitutional system and stability, because they have suffered so much due to the lack of a system in the past," said Abdullah.
Abdullah said that the current situation will have no winner through fighting, saying that a political solution, according to the will of the nation, has no loser.
He said that the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan considers its commitment to peace to be its religious and historic responsibility. “My delegation and myself have come to Doha on behalf of a political system which has the support of millions of men and women of the country and represents the cultural, social and ethnic diversity of Afghanistan. We are here to figure out a process that will close the door of war forever and open the door of coexistence and peaceful life for our citizens,” Abdullah said.
“We have come here with good intentions to achieve lasting peace and for honest negotiations and to engage in discussions to reach a comprehensive agreement between the two sides,” said Abdullah.
“We want the Afghan people to again live under a unified roof after 42 years of ups and downs, aggression, jihad and resistance,” said Abdullah.
Abdullah also said: “Ladies and gentlemen, I assure you that the delegation of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has come to Qatar to negotiate on behalf of all political factions and various layers of the society.”
Abdullah said that there have been tremendous changes in the lives of the Afghan people over the past years and that a return to the past will not be acceptable to the Afghan people.
“The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, democracy, elections, press freedom, women’s rights, the rights of minorities, rule of law, civil rights and human rights are among the major gains the Afghan people have achieved so far,” said Abdullah.
“We believe that there will be no need for the presence of foreign forces in the country if there is a peace,” concluded Abdullah.
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the head of the Taliban’s political office in Doha. in speech said that the Taliban assures the Afghan people that it will take part in the intra-Afghan negotiations with the spirit of honesty so that peace and stability can prevail for the Afghan people.
“We also assure the world that the Taliban will use all their ability so that the intra-Afghan talks get positive results,” said Mullah Baradar.
He also called on the US to comply with its commitments under the US-Taliban peace agreement.
“The peace negotiation process will have some challenges, but we need to show courage if we face issues during the talks and move forward with patience,” Baradar said.
US Secretary of Mike Pompeo, speaking at the event, said that today is a truly momentous occasion as Afghans have at long last chosen to sit together and chart a new course for your country. "This is a moment to dare to hope," he said.
"As we look toward the light, we recall the darkness of four decades of war, and the lost lives and opportunities. But it is remarkable -- and a testament to the human spirit -- that the pain and patterns of destruction are no match for the enduring hopes for peace held by the Afghan people, and their many friends," said Pompeo.
Pompeo said that the US will never forget the September 11 attack, but said that Washington welcomes the Taliban commitment to not host international terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda, nor to allow them to use Afghan territory to train, recruit, or fundraise.
" We welcome the same commitments by the Government of the Islamic Republic. Afghanistan should never again serve as a base for international terrorists to threaten other countries," said Pompeo.
Pompeo said: "It took hard work and sacrifice to reach this moment, and it will require hard work and sacrifice to keep it alive, and to take advantage of it so that the talks result in a durable peace."
"The entire world wants you to succeed." Pompeo said.
"I urge you to engage the representatives of all Afghan communities — including women, ethnic and religious minorities, and the victims of your country's long war," said Pompeo.
"These historic negotiations should produce a political arrangement that accommodates competing views and rejects the use of violence to achieve political aims," concluded Pompeo.
Speaking at the event, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that today is a historic occasion as Afghans take a major step forward in their long quest for peace.
"A new dawn is upon us," said Qureshi.
Qureshi said “Pakistan has fully facilitated the process that culminated in the US-Taliban Peace Agreement in Doha on February 29, 2020 and has reached this juncture,” Qureshi said.
Qureshi said that Pakistan has long maintained that there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan. A political solution is the only way forward.
“It is now for the Afghan leaders to seize this historic opportunity, work together constructively, and secure an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement,” he said.
Qureshi warned that spoilers, from within and from without, will pose formidable challenges.
“At this historic juncture, it is imperative that the mistakes of the past are not repeated. The Afghan people must not be abandoned, as happened before. The progress achieved must not be frittered away,” added Qureshi.
Ine Marie Eriksen Søreide, the Norwegian minister of foreign affairs at the event said that today is a day of hope for all who share the goal of finding an end to Afghanistan’s four decades of conflict.
“In order to get to the table, you have made difficult decisions, compromises, and sacrifices. Thousands of prisoners have been released as a confidence-building measure,” she said.
“I hope that a spirit of compromise and flexibility on all sides will be present throughout the negotiations,” the Norwegian foreign minister said.
She said that the inclusion of women, victims, minorities and other stakeholders in the peace process is important to ensure ownership and the successful implementation of a future peace accord.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also addressed the opening ceremony and he called it an historic day for Afghanistan.“With the start of intra-Afghan negotiations, we are entering a new phase of the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process,” said Stoltenberg.
He said that Afghans want peace and so does the international community, which has supported Afghanistan on this long, hard road. “Much has been sacrificed along the way. By Afghans, and our own troops. These sacrifices were not made in vain. Afghanistan is no longer a safe-haven for international terrorists,” the NATO chief said.
He said that the Afghan government and representatives of the Taliban have demonstrated the will to engage with each other. “We are now adjusting our troop presence in Afghanistan to support the peace efforts. At the same time, we remain committed to training and funding the Afghan Security Forces to help safeguard the Afghan people,” said Stoltenberg.
EU High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell
“The European Union welcomes the launch of the direct Intra-Afghan Negotiations between the Government of Afghanistan and the Taliban movement,” said High Representative of the European Union for Foreign and Security Policy / Vice-President of the European Commission, Josep Borrell.
He said that this marks the start of a genuine peace process, which should lead to the peace that the people of Afghanistan deserve and have long demanded. “To achieve this, the European Union is working with all parties. We want to ensure that peace negotiations are inclusive and respectful of the wish of Afghans to live in a peaceful, secure and prosperous country. A country with economic development and growth, providing new opportunities for its citizens, where rights are upheld and vulnerable groups are protected,” said Josep Borrell.
“This process must now be truly owned and led by Afghans. International partners must respect Afghanistan’s sovereignty and independence when supporting these negotiations, It must preserve and build on the political, economic and social achievements of the citizens of Afghanistan since 2001, especially on women’s rights,” he said.
Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)
Dr. Yousef A. Al-Othaimeen, the chairman of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), said that the organization strongly supports the peace process in Afghanistan, stating that over the last one and a half years, OIC has asked all Afghan stakeholders to engage in dialogue.
Suzuki Keisuke, Japan’s state minister for Foreign Affairs said: Japan supports an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process and urges the negotiation process to solve all disputes through constructive talks.
UK Minister for South Asia, Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon said: the United Kingdom firmly believes that a political process is the only way to bring lasting peace to Afghanistan.
The Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement announced to the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran welcomes the start of intra-Afghan talks between the Afghan government, political factions and the Taliban and hopes that these negotiations lead to the desired results for lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan and in the region,” said the statement.
The Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement announced to the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process. “The Islamic Republic of Iran welcomes the start of intra-Afghan talks between the Afghan government, political factions and the Taliban and hopes that these negotiations lead to the desired results for lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan and in the region,” said the statement.
A senior official delegation from India led by Shri J P Singh, Joint Secretary (PAI) in the Ministry of External Affairs, participated in the inaugural ceremony in Doha.
In his address, the Singh referred to the millennia old relationship between India and Afghanistan, which he said had withstood the test of time. Singh highlighted India’s role as a major development partner of Afghanistan with over 400 projects completed in all the 34 provinces of Afghanistan.
“EAM (Singh) conveyed that India’s policy on Afghanistan had been consistent. India believes any peace process must be Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled, has to respect the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of Afghanistan and preserve the progress made in the establishment of a democratic Islamic Republic in Afghanistan. The interests of minorities, women and vulnerable sections of society must be preserved and the issue of violence across the country and its neighborhood has to be effectively addressed,” the Indian External Affairs Ministry said in a statement.
UN Secretary General
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres also addressed the ceremony and he expressed hope that the talks lead to a political settlement of the conflict.
“The start of the intra-Afghan peace negotiations today in Doha between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban presents a major opportunity to achieve the long-held aspirations of the people of Afghanistan for peace,” he said.
Guterres also said:
"I pay tribute to the resilience and courage of all Afghans. Their consistent calls for an end to violence and a chance to develop their own country underpin today’s inaugural meeting. Afghans themselves must determine the content and nature of the negotiations. An inclusive peace process, in which women, youth and victims of conflict are meaningfully represented, offers the best hope of a sustainable solution."
The UN chief called on all parties to do their part to ensure that women participate in a variety of roles, and that the peace process reflects the experiences and expertise of Afghan women in all their diversity.
“I have been encouraged by the two ceasefires this year. As the negotiations commence, I urge the redoubling of efforts to protect civilians and to deescalate the conflict, in order to save lives and to create a conducive environment for the talks. It is my hope that progress toward peace can lead to the return of millions of Afghans displaced internally and across borders, to their homes in a safe, dignified and orderly manner,” he said.
“It is of crucial importance that all Afghan leaders and members of the international community do everything possible to make peace a reality. Please be assured of the readiness of the United Nations to support the process of intra-Afghan peace negotiations and the sustainable development of the country,” the UN chief concluded.