Doha talks on Afghan peace postponed as Taliban object to Afghan delegation

Washington: A United States-led peace conference that was slated to be held in the Qatari capital from Saturday (April 20) has been postponed after the Taliban on Thursday objected to a new delegation of Afghan government officials selected to attend the talks.

The announcement came as a major blow to the American efforts which intended to bring the Taliban and the Afghan government on the same negotiating table in order to end the 18 years of war in Afghanistan, New York Times reported.

Even though Washington and the Taliban have almost reached a peace deal that has so far excluded the Afghan government, no progress has been achieved on the formula for how power would be shared between the entities following the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.

A delegation of nearly 200 people was expected to arrive for the two-day negotiations, also dubbed as “intra-Afghan” dialogue, on Friday.

Organisers of the event informed New York Times that the meeting was already delayed a couple of times and was now postponed until further orders.

On April 6, the Afghan government had announced a list of 250 people, including around 50 women, who were expected to attend peace talks with the Taliban in Doha on Saturday.

The names were released by officials in Kabul, although the Taliban refused to talk directly with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government, saying it would recognise participants only as “ordinary” Afghans, Al Jazeera reported.

Meanwhile, U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, expressed disappointment on the sudden breakdown of the peace talks.

“I’m disappointed Qatar’s intra-Afghan initiative has been delayed. We’re in touch with all parties and encouraged that everyone remains committed to dialogue and the Afghan Peace Process,” Khalizad tweeted.

“Dialogue is and always will be key to a political roadmap and lasting peace. There is no alternative. I urge all sides to seize the moment and put things back on track by agreeing to a participant list that speaks for all Afghans. I stand ready to help if our help is needed,” he added.

The Taliban previously met the Afghan government representatives in Russia in February, however, those talks did not include members of Ghani’s government.