Afghan officials will meet Taliban insurgents next week for a second round of talks aimed at ending 13 years of war. They hope to press for a ceasefire in negotiations likely to be held in China.
The Afghan government conducted its first face-to-face talks with Taliban cadres on July 7 in Murree, a Pakistani hill station north of Islamabad, which were supervised by American and Chinese representatives.
They agreed to meet again in the coming weeks but the venue remains unconfirmed and it was unclear whether the nascent dialogue was widely endorsed within the ranks of the Taliban, riven by internal divisions.
“The second round of talks… is set for July 30 or 31,” said Mohammad Ismail Qasimyar, a member of the Afghan High Peace Council (HPC), the government’s top peace negotiating body. “This meeting will most probably be held in China… and will be supervised by the US and China. We will insist and put pressure in the meeting for a temporary ceasefire.”
But another HPC official said discussions over a possible venue were still ongoing.
“The talks… are set for July 30 but discussions and consultation are ongoing between Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United States and China on where to host the meeting,” said HPC deputy chairman Abdul Hakim Mujahid.
China, which shares only a 76 kilometre (47 mile) border with Afghanistan, has reaffirmed its commitment to help end the Taliban insurgency as it frets about the Islamist militant threat in its own restive western Xinjiang region.
The Taliban so far have not officially commented on Friday’s announcement but cracks within insurgent ranks over the fragile negotiations are visible.
“This time, if the talks are held and representatives from our political office of Qatar do not attend, these negotiations will be unacceptable to us,” said a source from the Quetta Shura, the Taliban’s governing council.
“This time our delegation from Qatar political office should be part of negotiations,” he said, highlighting a growing split within insurgent representatives in Quetta and Qatar, where the Taliban set up a political office in 2013.