Negotiator Fawzia Koofi: ‘Doha Talks Entering New Phase’

Sources say agreements have been reached, but public announcements on the Kabul side are still pending.

Peace negotiator Fawzia Koofi on Monday said the Doha talks have entered a new phase, but she did not offer further details. 

A 21-article set of procedural rules was finalized by both sides in the negotiations, according to sources, but sources said that the Presidential Palace has said it will not agree on the finalization of the procedural rules until the completion of the formation of the High Council for National Reconciliation.

Some of the rules for the talks include the start of sessions with the recitation of the Holy Quran, breaks in sessions for prayers, seeking direction from the Sunnah and the Quran when disputes are encountered, and prayers at the end of each session.

“I hope that at this new stage, the Taliban show more flexibility in addressing the demands of the people of Afghanistan,” Koofi said.

The Taliban has said the US-Taliban deal, the UN decisions on peace and the demands of the negotiation teams have been accepted as the guidelines of the talks, but the government said that this issue needs more clarification.

“Time is wasted. Peace will come, but, during this time, many people will lose their lives,” said Mawlawi Qalamuddin, head of Harakat-e-Inqilab-e-Islami party.

Aides close to former president Hamid Karzai said that President Ashraf Ghani in his meeting with politicians this week said that he has “accepted” the procedures for the start of the peace negotiations.

“The procedural rules have been approved and the negotiating teams of both sides will announce it,” said Shahzada Massoud, a former presidential adviser.

But the Presidential Palace denied this claim.

Sources said that following chief negotiator Masoom Stanekzai’s trip to Kabul, the negotiating team has said that the procedural rules for the start of the talks will be finalized after the High Council for National Reconciliation led by Abdullah Abdullah is functioning.

Sources also said that, recently, the Afghan government has called for the inclusion of the consultative Loya Jirga as a principle in the negotiations besides other matters, something that has not been accepted by the Taliban.

This comes as defense ministers of NATO allies will discuss Afghanistan on Tuesday.

“We have been there for almost two decades. And the country has come a long way. We now see a historic opportunity for peace. It is fragile, but it must be seized,” NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg told reporters at an online pre-ministerial press conference.

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Abdullah Faces Criticism for Incomplete Reconciliation Council

Analysts said that Abdullah Abdullah should first establish a national consensus on the peace process.

Analysts on Monday criticized Abdullah Abdullah, head of the High Council for National Reconciliation, for the delay in making the council fully staffed and functional, saying that Abdullah is spending his time on foreign trips rather than focusing on filling the posts of the council’s membership.

The analysts said that Abdullah should first establish a national consensus on the peace process and then opt for international trips to boost regional consensus on Afghan peace.

Abdullah traveled to Pakistan, India, Iran, Uzbekistan and Turkey in the last two months to attract more regional support to the Afghan peace process.

“Dr Abdullah’s trips are important at a regional level, but it was more important that he establish the Reconciliation Council first. The council should have presented strategy and policy,” said Faizullah Jalal, a university lecturer.

“Mr. Abdullah had some achievements on his trips, but he should have expedited the activity of the council,” said Malalai Shinwari, former MP.

The High Council for National Reconciliation said the formation of the leadership of the council with 46 members will be announced in the near future.

But some politicians–who, according to sources, are not part of the council–said they have not been consulted about this matter.

“Our name was removed due to the critical views we held. Now we are hearing once again that our name is included, but, so far, we have not received any official notice,” said Rahmatullah Nabil, former head of the National Directorate of Security.

“The concern of the Hizb-e-Islami leadership is that the High Council for National Reconciliation might make a political bargain in the appointment of its members, instead of keeping an open discussion,” said Hafiz-Ur-Rahman Naqi, member of Hizb-e-Islami led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

In August, President Ghani in a decree announced 45 politicians as members of the leadership of the High Council for National Reconciliation, but the decision was rejected by Abdullah, who said he has the authority to appoint members of the council, not the president.

“Mr. Abdullah might not have the ability take on this responsibility,” said Hamza Nuristani, an analyst, referring to the appointment of the council leadership.

“Afghans will face more hardships if they don’t end disputes,” said Noor Ahmad Nasiri, political affairs analyst.

This comes as the EU, the UK and US embassy in Kabul called for “urgent establishment” and “operationalization” of the Reconciliation Council.

Negotiator Fawzia Koofi: ‘Doha Talks Entering New Phase’