US-Taliban set to sign peace deal in Qatar, Indian envoy likely to participate

Envoys of around 30 countries including India are expected to participate in the signing of the much-anticipated peace deal between the United States and the Taliban in Doha on Saturday, sources told ANI.

“US-Taliban peace deal is set to be signed today evening in Doha (Qatar), Indian envoy is among 30 countries invited to witness the event,” said sources.

India’s Ambassador to Qatar, P Kumaran, is likely to attend the ceremony. This will be the first time New Delhi will be officially represented at an event involving the Taliban.

It is to be noted that India did not recognise the Taliban government when the terrorist group was in power between 1996 and 2001.

The United States and Taliban are all set to sign the deal regarding the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan in a bid to end 18 years of strife in the war-torn country.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would witness the signing of the agreement, meanwhile, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper will issue a joint declaration with the government of Afghanistan, announced President Donald Trump.

The US and Taliban negotiators had agreed earlier this week to finalise the pact on February 29 if a seven-day cooling-off period passed off peacefully. The truce came into effect on Friday night.

Trump had said he would put his name on the peace deal with the Taliban if a week went by without major violence in Afghanistan.

Ahead of the deal signing, Foreign Secretary Harsha Vardhan Shringla on Friday met Afghanistan leadership including President Ashraf Ghani, CEO Abdullah Abdullah and conveyed India’s support for Afghans in their pursuit for sustainable peace, security and development.

On Friday, a six-member delegation from the Afghan government left for the Qatari capital of Doha to hold talks with the Taliban.

The team, personally chosen by President Ghani, is being dubbed as “a group to establish initial contacts” with the Taliban, according to Tolo News.

This meeting will be the first between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

According to the group, a part of the agreement calls for the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners. America has wanted a meeting between the Taliban and representatives of the Afghan government over the issue. But Kabul has been apprehensive over the discussion as they are unsure whether the Taliban would be willing to discuss other issues as well with the government team.

The Taliban and Afghan leaders, including from the government, are expected to meet within 10 to 15 days of Saturday’s signing. Both sides will negotiate the framework of Afghanistan post-war and issues that include a permanent ceasefire, the rights of women and minorities, and governance, reported Al Jazeera.

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