Afghan peace talks should rotate among countries, envoy says amid stall

Afghan army commandos fire a mortar from an outpost near the front line with the Taleban in Panjwai on March 7, 2021.
Afghan army commandos fire a mortar from an outpost near the front line with the Taleban in Panjwai on March 7, 2021.PHOTO: NYTIMES

ABU DHABI (REUTERS) - Afghan peace talks, now stalled in Qatar, should be rotated to other venues, Afghanistan's ambassador to the United Arab Emirates said, indicating the Qatari hosts have not pushed hard enough for the Taleban to reduce violence.

Talks between the Afghan government and the Taleban have been held in Qatar since last year, after the United States agreed to withdraw its troops. But violence has increased and the government accuses the militants of failing to meet obligations to reduce attacks.

Ambassador Javid Ahmad told Reuters peace talks should not be held in one fixed location, but rotate among venues in Europe, Asia, the Middle East or Afghanistan itself.

The Taleban, which opened an office in Qatar in 2013, were too "comfortable" there, he said. "We want the Taleban to get out of their comfort zone." "The Qataris could have used its role as a host to play a more active and decisive role in pushing the Taleban to reduce violence or declare a ceasefire," Ahmad said.

"They have not properly used their leverage, as a host to the Taleban... to push the group's leaders to declare a ceasefire or to visibly reduce violence."

Qatar's state communications office did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment. Qatar foreign ministry special envoy Mutlaq al-Qahtani told Reuters last month the Gulf state wanted to see a reduction in violence that could lead to continued peace and security.

Russia will hold a conference on Afghanistan this week, while Turkey hosts talks next month as the United States seeks to shake-up the process, proposing an interim administration.

Ahmad said Afghanistan's "participatory government" had "the capacity to absorb the Taleban and ex-combatants" but added that the only way to achieve a transition of power was through elections.

The Taleban have said they are committed to the peace negotiations.

Former US President Donald Trump's administration signed a troop withdrawal deal with the Taleban in February 2020 under which all international forces were expected to leave the country by May 1.

However, violence has risen and Nato officials say some conditions of the deal, including the Taleban cutting ties with international militant groups, have not been met, which the Taleban disputes.