*Afghan govt, Taliban reach breakthrough agreement
Qatar has welcomed the agreement reached by the Afghan negotiators in Doha Wednesday, which constitutes a milestone in the Afghan peace negotiations that began on September 12, 2020.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that this significant progress shows that the Afghan parties are serious and able to overcome differences and address difficult issues.
The ministry also confirmed that "what has been achieved today" raises hope that they will succeed in reaching a political settlement to this conflict that has lasted for more than forty years.
It reiterated that Qatar will continue, in collaboration with the international community and its strategic allies, to support the peace process in pursuit of reaching permanent and comprehensive peace in Afghanistan.
The agreement comes after months of talks in Doha, encouraged by the United States, despite the ongoing violence.
Reuters adds: Afghan government and Taliban representatives reached a preliminary deal to press on with peace talks, their first written agreement in 19 years of war and welcomed by the United States as a chance to halt the violence.
The agreement lays out the way forward for discussion but is considered a breakthrough because it will allow negotiators to move on to more substantive issues, including talks on a ceasefire.
Key players including Qatar, who is hosting the talks, and neighbouring Pakistan, has helped put pressure on the Taliban to bring them to the negotiating table.
"The procedure including its preamble of the negotiation has been finalised and from now on, the negotiation will begin on the agenda," Nader Nadery, a member of the Afghan government's negotiating team, said.
The Taliban spokesman confirmed the agreement on Twitter.
"A joint working committee was tasked to prepare the draft topics for the agenda (of peace talks)," a joint statement from both sides said.
A ceasefire remains the most urgent demand of international capitals and Kabul, even after the Taliban refused one during the preliminary stages of talks.
"(The agreement) is a step forward towards beginning the negotiations on the main issues, including a comprehensive ceasefire as the key demand of the Afghan people," Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's spokesman, Sediq Sediqqi, said on Twitter, quoting the Afghan leader.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo congratulated the two sides on "perseverance and willingness to find common ground", and added that the United States would "work hard with all sides in pursuit of a serious reduction of violence and ceasefire".
US Special Representative for Afghan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad said on Twitter that the two sides had agreed on a "three-page agreement codifying rules and procedures for their negotiations on a political roadmap and a comprehensive ceasefire".
"This agreement demonstrates that the negotiating parties can agree on tough issues," Khalilzad said.
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