ISLAMABAD: Afghan Taliban’s spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, said on Monday that a cease-fire with the US and its NATO allies would be declared after the signing of the peace agreement, in order to resolve the protracted conflict in Afghanistan through a negotiated settlement.
“Everything – cease-fire, with all of the foreign troops, and an intra-Afghan dialogue are mentioned in the deal,” he said when questioned about the US’ repeated calls for a reduction in violence as a condition for the agreement.
Speaking to Arab News from Qatar – prior to the resumption of the peace talks which had entered its third day on Monday – Shaheen said that both the Taliban and Washington have already initiated the deal and were discussing the date of signing and other details.
“No date has been decided yet for the signing of the agreement. It could be signed any time, even today or after a week, but there is no decision yet,” he said.
Both groups restarted their formal peace negotiations on Saturday, the first such initiative of its kind after US President Donald Trump called off the talks in early September.
Trump’s decision followed the deaths of 12 people, including a US soldier, in a Taliban-induced bomb attack in Kabul.
The peace talks, which began last year, are aimed at striking a deal with the Taliban to end a decades-old conflict in Afghanistan which has now entered its 18th year.
This would involve the withdrawal of US and foreign troops from the country in exchange for the insurgents’ guarantee of a cease-fire and that they would not use Afghanistan to launch attacks on other countries.
The Taliban and the US had finalized the peace agreement in August – at the conclusion of the ninth round of talks –but the signing of the deal was blocked after Trump’s abrupt decision to call off the negotiations.
“Peace agreement has already been finalized. There is nothing in the agreement to be amended as both sides have agreed upon on the draft. It has been initiated,” Shaheen said in an audio clip, adding that copies of the draft were with the Qatari government, the US and the Taliban.
Talking about prisoners' release, he said they would be freed in phases with the first group to be released before the start of the intra-Afghan dialogue.
“We will talk to all Afghan sides, including the Kabul administration, after the signing of the peace agreement with the US. The Kabul administration will be a party to the formal intra-Afghan negotiations. We will talk to everyone,” he said, adding that the intra-Afghan talks will start 10 days or two weeks after the deal is inked.
Earlier, Shaheen had told Arab News that the foreign ministers of 23 countries, officials from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the UN, and representatives from regional and neighboring countries would be attending the ceremony for the signing of the peace deal in Qatar, where the Taliban have their political headquarters.