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AFP
July 18, 2021

Taliban, government team meet in Qatar

AFP
July 18, 2021

Taliban, government team meet in Qatar

DOHA: The Afghan government representatives and the Taliban met in Doha for talks on Saturday, as violence rages in the country with foreign forces almost entirely withdrawn.

The two sides have been meeting on and off for months in the Qatari capital, but the talks have lost momentum, as the Taliban have made battlefield gains.

Several high-ranking officials, including former Afghan former chief executive Abdullah Abdullah, gathered in a luxury hotel on Saturday after morning prayers.

They were joined by negotiators from the Taliban's political office in Doha.

Former president Hamid Karzai had also been due to travel to Doha but remained in Kabul, according to a source.

"The high level delegation is here to talk to both sides, guide them and support the (government) negotiating team in terms of speeding up the talks and have progress," said Najia Anwari, spokeswoman for the Afghan government negotiating team in Doha.

"We expect that it (will) speed the talks and... in a short time, both sides will reach a result and we will witness a durable and dignified peace in Afghanistan," she told AFP.

"We are ready for dialogue, for talks and negotiations, and our priority is to solve the problems through dialogue," Taliban spokesman Muhammad Naeem told the Al Jazeera broadcaster ahead of Saturday´s talks.

"The other side must have a true and sincere will to end the problems."

Talks between the government and the Taliban side led by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar began with Koranic recitations, Naeem tweeted Saturday.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Saturday partially reopened its southern crossing with Afghanistan, shut off since the Taliban seized control of Spin Boldak from Kabul´s forces on Wednesday.

"We have opened the Chaman border... allowing crowds of up to 4,000 Afghans, including women and children, to cross over to Afghanistan to celebrate Eidul Azha with their families, purely on humanitarian grounds," a border official, who did not want to be named, told AFP.

The Taliban have also tightened their grip on the north, with clashes continuing Saturday in the stronghold of infamous warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum, which borders Turkmenistan.

Also on Saturday, the French government flew out around 100 of its citizens and Afghans working for the embassy from the capital, as security deteriorated, a French diplomatic source said.

Several other countries including India, China, Germany and Canada have flown out their citizens or told them to leave in recent days.