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Paris Meeting: the Beginning of More Comprehensive Talks?

Taliban fighter in Afghanistan

Taliban fighter in Afghanistan

For the first time, representatives from the Taliban, Hekmatyar’s Hizb-e Islami, some major political parties and the High Peace Council (HPC) are gathering in an undisclosed area near Paris to talk over the Afghan conflict and the 2014 deadline for withdrawal of foreign troops. Despite that the talks are announced to be informal, but presence of Taliban representatives in the talks, in itself, is of great importance. These conversations can be studied from several perspectives:

For about a decade, the Taliban and other insurgent groups have always had a fixed position that they never and under no circumstances are willing to compromise and negotiate with the Afghan government and the United States. But the gathering being held in Paris is a step forward in breaking this old tradition of no talking by the Taliban.

From another perspective, the informal gathering in Paris is important because the Taliban are sitting on the same table of negotiations with their old foes who, in the past, were the main enemies of each other. They have always been suspicious and adversarial to each other. The talks give both sides more understanding of stance of the other side and provide the opportunity to initiate dialogue over most critical issues.

In the other hand, the major political parties particularly the opposition groups have never been involved, at least in a way that is much needed, in the initial processes of peace talks with the Taliban. Mostly, this has resulted to growing distrusts between the government and the opposition political parties over intentions of each other. In the international media, it is repeatedly highlighted that any failure of negotiations would have serious impacts regarding the increasing confrontation between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance. No doubt that disengagement of some major political parties, formerly the Northern Alliance, in the process would be challenging for any sort of deals between the government and the insurgent groups.

The government of Afghanistan and the major political parties has much in common regarding their formal stance over the peace talks. Engagement of the political parties in the talks, including the gathering in Paris would lead to more supporting role of the parties in facilitating talks between the government and rebel groups. This helps the opposition political parties to have a more supportive role in the peace talks with Taliban.

On other hand, the informal negotiations help the international community, the Afghan government and particularly the High Peace Council to better understand Taliban’s stance. In the past, one of the major challenges for the Afghan government was absence of a table for negotiations. For now, address and table for negotiation is no more a problem. No doubt the efforts for talks aimed at beginning the official peace talks would bear positive results, at least to the extent to bring some moderate Taliban into negotiation table.

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