The delegation representing the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in the talks with the Taliban on Thursday said that discussions have started over the agenda of the formal talks, members of the team said on Thursday.
The team members said that the working groups from both sides are expected to meet on Saturday to finalize the agenda for the formal talks.
This comes a day after negotiators from both sides of the Afghan peace negotiations in Doha agreed on procedural rules for the peace negotiation talks.
The breakthrough reached in Doha between the two sides was widely hailed in Afghanistan and in the international community.
The US, UN, EU, NATO, Canada, Qatar, UK, and Pakistan --among others--welcomed the move.
The development in Doha came after 80 days of lengthy and tough discussions.
“This small group will hold talks on the titles and agenda of the talks, a ceasefire will be an important part of the issues that we will include in the agenda,” said Habiba Sarabi, member of the republic’s team.
“The release of Taliban prisoners, removal from the blacklist, and reduction in violence will be discussed,” said Faiz Zaland, a university lecturer in Kabul.
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.
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."
But what have the two sides have agreed on?
Sources in Doha have said that the two sides have agreed to acknowledge the US-Taliban peace agreement and the UN decisions on Afghanistan as the foundation for the talks.
“The important thing is that the two sides show willingness and say that we are ready for power-sharing,” said Idris Rahmani, a political analyst.
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 over 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.
The Afghan government has expressed hope that this time the Taliban will reduce violence significantly or agree on a ceasefire.
But the Taliban has said that it expects that with the start of the formal talks, the remaining prisoners should be released and the names of Taliban leaders should be removed from the UN blacklist.