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PublishDate: Thursday, January 14, 2021 10:19

Progress stalls in Afghan peace talks as sides ‘await Biden’

Afghan peace talks that resumed four days ago are effectively on hold, sources from both sides said on Wednesday, as negotiators wait for President-elect Joe Biden to signal whether he will stick to Donald Trump’s aggressive schedule to pull out troops, Reuters reported.

Afghan voice Agency (AVA)_This comes after a month-long break, which saw most, but not all, negotiators return to Doha last week for the resumption of talks.

A diplomatic source in Kabul told Reuters on Wednesday that expectations were low for progress before Biden takes office on January 20.

The sides “do not want to commit to anything before the 20th. They wanted to have the process going in the meantime because that was one of the requirements of the , so they have the process. But it is stagnant,” the diplomatic source said.

In an agreement signed between the US and the Taliban last year, agreed to a full withdrawal by April this year.

The agreement was however conditions based and the Taliban is expected to meet certain security conditions before the last of the troops leave Afghanistan.

The Afghan government says these conditions have not been met while Biden and his advisors have so far given few clues as to their plans.

“We are waiting for the new US administration and their policies towards Afghanistan to see whether they would respect the peace accord,” a Taliban negotiator told Reuters on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to speak publicly.

“If they don’t honour their commitment of withdrawing their forces as promised…then we would need to make tough decisions by appointing hardliners to key positions on the ground.”

After months of little progress, the sides finally agreed ground rules for talks late last year. The talks then broke up in December, in part to allow negotiators to return home for consultations with their leadership.

The sides announced last week they would re-start talks on Saturday. But so far only limited meetings between smaller teams called ‘contact groups’ have taken place, three diplomatic and Afghan government sources told Reuters.

About four key members of the Taliban negotiating team were not yet in Qatar, the group’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters.

He said this was due to logistical issues travelling from remote areas where they were visiting family. They would arrive in the next few days and the delay would not affect the talks.

Some Afghan government negotiators were also not yet in Doha. One, who has been receiving treatment for cancer, told Reuters she planned to travel there this week.

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