UN Welcomes Intra-Afghan Talks, Urges Cease-Fire

The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution on September 15 welcoming the start of negotiations between representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban, encouraging the warring parties to aim for a permanent cease-fire. The resolution, which among other things extended the UN political mission in Afghanistan for another year, also strongly encouraged the parties "to continue pursuing confidence-building measures including additional reductions in violence." The Afghan government and its allies, including NATO and United States, are calling for the Taliban to agree to a cease-fire to help advance what are expected to be long and grinding negotiations to end decades of conflict. Negotiations kicked off over the weekend in Qatar and are initially expected to focus on technical details such as schedules for the talks and a code of conduct. On September 15, Afghan government and Taliban peace negotiators held their first direct session in the capital of Qatar, Doha, their spokesmen said, as the two sides try to work out the agenda and the schedule. The Taliban have not agreed to a cease-fire and have conducted near daily attacks on Afghan security forces since the United States and the militants struck an agreement in February that could see foreign troops exit Afghanistan. The deal, which paved the way for the Qatar negotiations, did not commit the militants to any reduction of violence, only requiring that it be "an item on the agenda" in negotiations. The Taliban were ousted in 2001 by a U.S.-led coalition for harboring Osama bin Laden, the architect of the September 11 terrorist attacks on America. The deal that Washington brokered with the Taliban aimed at bringing American troops home after 19 years of engagement and ending more than four decades of relentless wars in Afghanistan following the 1979 Soviet invasion. The so-called intra-Afghan talks in Qatar are expected to set a road map for a post-war society in Afghanistan. The Security Council called for women and young people to be included in peace negotiations and underlined "that the economic, social, political and development gains made in the last 19 years, including in the field of human rights, especially the rights of women, children and minorities, must be protected and built upon." The Council voiced "deep concern" at the current high level of violence in Afghanistan, especially the number of civilian casualties. It also reaffirmed "that neither the Taliban nor any other Afghan group or individual should support terrorists operating on the territory of any other country." With reporting by Reuters and AP

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