Qatar’s efforts of bringing together Afghans from across the political spectrum and the Taliban have been successful, according to Dr Sultan Barakat, director of the Centre for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies.
“This is the first time that the Taliban have come face to face with a wide range of individuals from Afghanistan,” the director told reporters on the sidelines of the Intra-Afghan Conference for Peace in Doha yesterday.
“Everyone here is participating in their own (personal) capacity, so the first achievement has already been done for them to get together, to get to know each other better,” he said.
The two-day peace talks, sponsored by Qatar and Germany, have gathered several high-profile Afghan politicians and civil society activists in Doha, aimed at ending the 18-year war in Afghanistan.
The summit also hopes to help involved parties to come up with their own solutions in ending the war in Afghanistan.
“A partial success is for people to continue to talk, a great success is for them to come up with a framework that could lead to direct negotiations, Afghan-Afghan, and hopefully catch up with the speed in which the talks between the Taliban and the US are progressing,” Dr Barakat said.
He underscored the importance of such peace talks in Doha, saying it gives Afghans and the Taliban what he described as a historic opportunity to resolve various issues.
“It is up to them to make something of this opportunity, which I think is an historic opportunity. If we don’t capture it now, it will probably take many years to come back to a position where not just nationally but regionally and internationally, a lot of issues have aligned in a constructive and positive way,” Dr Barakat pointed out.
“It is up to them to decide what they want to come up with. Ideally, I think it would be great if they were to agree on a more comprehensive framework for future negotiations, which at some stage got to step into more official, direct talks with the government and so on,” he added.
About the peace talks, Dr Barakat said all the indicators are “very positive so far”, citing that the parties involved had the chance to initially meet and speak at a dinner prior to the actual conference.
“It was wonderful to see people who, in principle, are known to be enemies sitting together, talking together, eating together and I think that in itself is an important step,” he noted. “The plan has been to leave it to the Afghans, to have a dialogue directly; all that Qatar aims to do is to facilitate their presence in one group.”
“I think this is now being now achieved with the help of Germany. It is up to them to make use of this opportunity, you cannot force them to peace, but we can do our best to encourage and facilitate as much as possible,” Dr Barakat said. “I think we have done our best and they are so far very positive, very constructive; there have been a lot of concessions on all sides, to reach this stage.”
“We believe that there is collectively an incredible amount of intelligence, thinking about Afghanistan and what goes on, hopefully coming together will come up with its own solutions,” he added.
“If the time is right, I’m sure they will go in that direction. I’m sure everyone in this room is highly committed and taking a huge risk by putting his or her hand up for peace.”