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Optimism As Intra-Afghan Peace Talks Pick Up Speed In Doha

Delegates attend talks that kicked off between the Afghan government and Taliban insurgents in Doha on September 12.

The two parties to intra-Afghan peace talks have exchanged positions in the Qatari capital, Doha, in what diplomats on September 16 described as a warm and "surprisingly positive" mood.

"The biggest and most important priority of our people is to stop the bloodshed in the country," the Afghan government's chief negotiator, Masoom Stanekzai, told a meeting of the two sides on September 15. "This moment that we sit here, tens of youth are being martyred, women widowed, children orphaned."

"Who killed more, who killed less is not the debate," he added. "What is important is: Why are Afghans dying?"

Taliban chief negotiator Mawlawi Abdul Hakim, meanwhile, emphasized that the two sides should resolve the country's problems independently and with tolerance and patience.

Hakim added that the Taliban is seeking to establish a "truly Islamic" country. The Taliban is not fighting to seize power, the militant group's chief negotiator said, but for Afghanistan to be free of occupation and for the establishment of an Islamic system.

On February 29, the United States signed a peace agreement with the Taliban that paves the way for a gradual withdrawal of all international forces from Afghanistan. In return, the Taliban has committed to join the intra-Afghan peace talks and renounce terrorism.