Saudi envoy says Afghan talks to yield ‘very positive’ results

Saudi Ambassador to the United States Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz said the Abu Dhabi talks were productive and would “help promote intra-Afghan dialogue towards ending the conflict.”
Thursday 20/12/2018
Members of Taliban delegation take their seats during the multilateral peace talks on Afghanistan in Moscow, last November. (REUTERS)
Positive expectations. Members of Taliban delegation take their seats during the multilateral peace talks on Afghanistan in Moscow, last November. (REUTERS)

CAIRO – Saudi Ambassador to the United States Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz that Afghan peace talks in the United Arab Emirates would produce “very positive results by the beginning of next year.”

Prince Khalid added on his Twitter account that the talks were productive and would “help promote intra-Afghan dialogue towards ending the conflict.”

US Special Adviser for Afghanistan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad arrived in Kabul to meet with government leaders following his discussions with Taliban representatives in Abu Dhabi.

The United Arab Emirates hosted talks aimed at ending a 17-year conflict in Afghanistan December 17-19 with the participation of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

“Talks revolved around the withdrawal of occupation forces from Afghanistan, ending the oppression being carried out by the United States and her allies and views were exchanged with said countries about peace and reconstruction of Afghanistan,” a Taliban spokesman said in a statement.

The United States proposed a 6-month ceasefire and an agreement to name Taliban representatives to a future caretaker government, Reuters reported, citing anonymous Taliban officials. The Taliban have said a ceasefire would damage their cause and help US and Afghan forces.

Despite the apparent challenges, Khalilzad, writing on Twitter, said he had “productive meetings in the UAE with the Afghan and international partners to promote intra-Afghan dialogue towards ending the conflict in Afghanistan.”

The Emirates news agency WAM said another round of talks would convene in Abu Dhabi to complete the Afghanistan reconciliation process.

“Pakistan has helped in the dialogue between Taliban and the United States in Abu Dhabi. Let us pray that this leads to peace and ends almost three decades of suffering of the brave Afghan people. Pakistan will be doing everything within its power to further the peace process,” Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted.

In a message released December 18, Taliban delegates said they had “preliminary talks” with Khalilzad. They said they had “extensive” meetings with officials from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The United States did not confirm there had been direct meetings between Khalilzad and the Taliban. Washington said meetings were continuing in Abu Dhabi “to promote an intra-Afghan dialogue towards ending the conflict” and that Khalilzad was in the region.

Khalilzad “has in the past met and will continue to meet with all interested parties, including the Taliban, to support a negotiated settlement to the conflict,” a statement from Washington said.

The Abu Dhabi meetings are among diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict. Russia in November staked its claim on any peace settlement, hosting a meeting in which Taliban envoys met with representatives of the Afghan High Peace Council. Many other countries are working to open channels with the Taliban and position themselves as lead facilitators of reconciliation talks.

Khalilzad, who has expressed hopes for a deal to be in place before Afghanistan’s presidential election next April, has made several trips to the region since his appointment in September.

During a briefing at the UN Security Council, UN Special Representative for Afghanistan Tadamichi Yamamoto was optimistic about the possibility of talks. “The possibility of a negotiated end to the conflict has never been more real in the past 17 years than it is now,” he said.

(With Reuters)