New York (UNA-OIC) – UN Secretary General António Guterres said the first-ever direct talks between Afghan government representatives and the Taliban, which began on Saturday, present “a major opportunity” to finally realize the “long-held aspirations” of the people, for a peaceful future.
In a special video message released as the historic negotiations got underway in Doha, the UN chief thanked the Qatari hosts for facilitating, and said the “consistent calls for an end to violence” by Afghans themselves, and the chance to develop the country after silencing the guns, “underpin today’s inaugural meeting.”
“Afghans themselves must determine the content and nature of the negotiations,” Guterres added. “An inclusive peace process, in which women, youth and victims of conflict are meaningfully represented, offers the best hope of a sustainable solution.”
The country has seen four decades of conflict, with thousands killed, but up until now, there have never been face-to-face talks between the militant group which controlled the country before being toppled by a US-led coalition in 2001, and the democratically-elected Afghan government.
Saturday’s first meeting comes in the wake of a security agreement inked between the United States and Taliban representatives in February, which paved the way.
The Secretary General said it was crucial that all Afghan leaders together with the international community, “do everything possible to make peace a reality. Please be assured of the readiness of the United Nations to support the process of intra-Afghan peace negotiations, and the sustainable development of the country.”