Representatives of the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban insurgency have assembled in the Qatari capital, Dolha, for historic peace talks aimed at ending two decades of war.
The delegations began gathering on Saturday for the talks, which are scheduled to commence Sunday.
“The choice of your political system is yours to make,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the two sides at Saturday’s opening ceremony.
Bringing an end to nineteen years of civil war, according to Mr. Pompeo, “will require hard work and sacrifice”. But he said “through them, an endurable peace is possible”.
The head of Afghanistan’s peace council, Abdullah Abdullah, said that if the two sides join hands “and honestly work for peace, the current ongoing misery in the country will end.”
Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, whose government is hosting the talks, said the warring sides “must make the decisive decision in line with the current challenges and rise above all form of division… by reaching an agreement on the basis of no victor and no vanquished.”
Analysts say that although getting both sides to the negotiating table was an achievement, this does not mean the path to peace will be easy.
Afghanistan has endured nearly two decades of brutal warfare, which started in October 2001, when US forces, at the head of an international military coalition, overthrew the Taliban government. Washington had accused the Taliban of harbouring and arming Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind of the September 11 2001 terror attacks in the US.
The Dolha talks, if successful, will set the stage for the conclusion of a conflict that has killed tens of thousands of combatants and civilians.