Negotiators from both sides in Doha have agreed on procedural rules for the peace negotiation talks, the Taliban and the delegation of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan confirmed on Wednesday.
Nader Nadery, a member of the republic’s negotiating team in Doha, said: “Today (Wednesday), the plenary meeting was held between two Intra-Afghan negotiation teams. In this meeting, a joint working committee was tasked to prepare the draft topics for the agenda.”
"The current negotiations between both teams show that there is a willingness among Afghans to reach sustainable peace and both sides are committed to continuing their sincere efforts to reach a sustainable peace in Afghanistan" said Nadery.
Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem stated that a general meeting of the two sides was held in Doha on Wednesday, and the joint committee was tasked with preparing the topics for the agenda of the talks.
“The current talks between the delegations from the two sides indicate that there is a will for peace among Afghans,” said Mohammad Naeem.
The international community and Afghan leaders have responded positively to the news.
UNAMA head Deborah Lyons says the UN welcomes the progress achieved by both negotiating teams in the Afghan Peace Process. "Moving on to the agenda is a positive development. This breakthrough should be a springboard to reach the peace wanted by all Afghans,” UNAMA tweeted.
US peace envoy Khalilzad tweeted: "I welcome the news from Doha that the two Afghan sides have reached a significant milestone: A three-page agreement codifying rules and procedures for their negotiations on a political roadmap and a comprehensive ceasefire. The people of Afghanistan now expect rapid progress on a political roadmap and a ceasefire. We understand their desire and we support them. As negotiations on a political roadmap and permanent ceasefire begin, we will work hard with all sides for a serious reduction of violence and even a ceasefire during this period. This is what the Afghan people want and deserve," Khalilzad said.
The British Embassy in Kabul welcomed the breakthrough in Doha, saying: "This is an important step in the Afghan-owned and led process and we encourage both sides to continue the positive momentum."
"The biggest obstacle remaining is the current unacceptable level of violence: this must stop. Peace is the only solution for lasting stability, security, and peace in Afghanistan," the UK embassy tweeted.
Abdullah Abdullah, Reconciliation Council chairman, welcomed the "initial major step" of both sides' agreement in Doha on the procedural framework, and thanked the "republic’s negotiation team, all facilitators and the host Qatar for their valuable support."
US Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Ross Wilson on today's developments in Doha talks: “Welcome news from the Afghanistan Peace Negotiations.”
Presidential Palace spokesman Sediq Sediqqi: "The president of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan welcomes the finalization of the negotiation procedures in Doha. It’s a step forward towards beginning the negotiations on the main issues, including a comprehensive ceasefire as the key demand of the Afghan people for a lasting peace."
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s ministry of foreign affairs in a statement welcomed the breakthrough in Doha.
“Pakistan welcomes the announcement regarding the agreement reached on rules and procedures by the Afghan parties in Doha. This is another significant step forward,” Pakistan's foreign ministry stated.
"The agreement reflects a common resolve of the parties to secure a negotiated settlement. It is an important development contributing towards a successful outcome of Intra-Afghan Negotiations, which we all hope for," said the statement.
The negotiating teams of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban recently agreed to include the US-Taliban deal, UN endorsements for the Afghan peace process, commitments of the negotiating teams and the will of the Afghan people as the base for upcoming negotiations, sources said.
Both the Kabul and Taliban teams had formed small groups called “contact groups” on the opening day of the talks on September 12. The contact groups have held five meetings so far to discuss rules and regulations as well as the agenda of the negotiations.
Qatar, which hosts the talks between the two sides, hailed the breakthrough reached on Wednesday, calling it a "milestone in the Afghan peace negotiations that began on September 12, 2020.”
The statement also said: "The State of Qatar will continue, in collaboration with the international community and its strategic allies, to support the peace process in pursuit of reaching lasting and comprehensive peace in Afghanistan."
"What has been achieved today raises hope that they will succeed in reaching a political settlement to this conflict that has lasted for more than forty years," the Qatari statement said.
NATO Chief Jens Stoltenberg said: "I welcome the breakthrough in Doha, which brings us one step closer to peace in Afghanistan. It is now critical to see rapid progress on a political roadmap and a comprehensive ceasefire. Afghans deserve peace and NATO fully supports the Afghanistan peace process."
The peace negotiations between teams from the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban started on September 12; however, talks had been delayed because of disagreements on the procedural rules.
This comes as pressure from Afghanistan’s international partners had increased on both sides of the talks to compromise and show flexibility during the talks.