Afghan president calls for peace talks to be moved to home

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Kaboul (AFP)

The next round of talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government are expected to be held at home, President Ashraf Ghani said on Monday, supporting calls to move the talks from Qatar.

The warring parties have been engaged in direct talks since September at a luxury hotel in Doha, where the Taliban have their political office.

Negotiators on both sides on Saturday announced a pause in talks until January 5, with the government delegation due to return to Kabul this week to consult with senior officials.

“We would prefer the second round of peace talks to take place inside Afghanistan,” Ghani said at a cabinet meeting, his spokesman Sediq Sediqqi tweeted.

“The Afghan government is ready to negotiate anywhere in Afghanistan… in a tent or in the cold.

“It is not appropriate to insist on holding talks in luxury hotels. People need to see how the talks are going, what issues are focused and why ”.

Afghanistan’s National Security Council officials have also called for the talks to be brought home.

The insurgents and the Kabul side said they had exchanged “preliminary lists of agenda items” to be covered when talks resume.

The negotiations were, until recently, bogged down by disputes over the basic framework for religious discussions and interpretations.

But earlier this month, both sides announced they were ready to continue after a period of concerted diplomatic efforts that saw outgoing U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visit the two teams.

The talks follow a landmark troop withdrawal agreement signed in February by the Taliban and Washington, which will see all foreign troops withdrawn next year.

Despite the talks, there has been a wave of violence in Afghanistan in recent months.

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