Sources: Taliban Open to Istanbul Summit But Wants Talks in Doha

The Taliban has agreed to begin substantive talks with the Republic team in Doha in the coming days, according to sources close to the group, which would end the peace process stalemate.

The sources said that the group plans to attend the Istanbul summit, but wants the end negotiations to take place in Doha.

The negotiating teams met in Doha on May 14 after a long pause. Sources familiar with the meeting said the Taliban has asked to maintain the Doha negotiations–with serious discussions– but they want the final outcome to be achieved in Doha, not in Istanbul.

“I think that this will open the way for an Istanbul conference where the Taliban will attend. They might make the agenda based on who in the Afghan government team will attend, not based on the US agenda,” said Sayed Akbar Agha, a former Taliban commander.

The Republic team said that efforts in Doha and Istanbul will help achieve results in the negotiations, but they stressed that the Taliban’s commitment is key.

“A meeting will be meaningful when the attendees include decision-makers and when there is a commitment for decision making. Only participation of high-ranking leaders can affect the current Doha process,” said Fawzia Koofi, member of the negotiating team of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, a delegation representing the Taliban led by Shai Abdul Hakim Haqqani has been in Pakistan over the last 20 days discussing with the leadership of the group the details of attending the Istanbul summit and the withdrawal of international troops from Afghanistan.

“Pakistan’s influence on the Taliban and the possible encouragement from Pakistan of course has an impact,” said Mohammad Amin Waqad, former deputy head of the High Peace Council.

The negotiations in Doha were stalled after the announcement of a delay in US forces withdrawal in Afghanistan from the original May 1st deadline.