Taliban and Afghan meet

Afghan government officials and Taliban militants began two days of meetings on Sunday in the gulf state of Qatar, and for once neither side denied that the sessions were taking place. Both were also quick to insist that they were not holding peace talks. A statement by the Taliban called the meetings a “research conference,” while Afghan government officials described them as “scientific discussions.” Still, after years of efforts to get an active peace process going, hopes and expectations were relatively high for the talks, which are being hosted by the Pugwash Conferences, a Nobel Prize-winning science group dedicated to promoting peace. Many of the representatives sent by the Afghan government and the Taliban were the sort likely to participate in any formal peace talks. “These are not peace talks. But it would be fair to say that this is the most encouraging development we’ve seen in a while,” said Mohammad Ismail Qasimyar, the foreign policy committee chief at the Afghan government’s High Peace Council. “After all, peace talks between China and America started with a Ping-Pong game.” This is not the first such Pugwash Conference to include the two sides, and there have been other similar Track Two talks, as indirect, non-negotiation meetings between the two sides have been called. But in the past, such talks were held under a cloak of secrecy, and actual peace discussions between representatives of the government and the Taliban were routinely denied when news of them became public”.

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