First written agreement in 19 years of war: Afghan gov’t, Taliban announce breakthrough deal in peace talks

Afghan government and Taliban representatives said they have reached a preliminary deal to press on with peace talks, their first written agreement in 19 years of war.

The agreement on Wednesday lays out the way forward for further discussion but is considered a breakthrough because it will allow negotiators to move on to more substantive issues, including talks on a ceasefire.

“The procedure including its preamble of the negotiation has been finalised and from now on, the negotiation will begin on the agenda,” Nader Nadery, a member of the Afghan government’s negotiating team, told Reuters.

The Taliban spokesman confirmed the same on Twitter.

“A joint working committee was tasked to prepare the draft topics for the agenda (of peace talks),” a joint statement from both sides said.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s spokesman, Sediq Sediqqi, said on Twitter, quoting the Afghan leader: “(The agreement) is a step forward towards beginning the negotiations on the main issues, including a comprehensive ceasefire as the key demand of the Afghan people.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo congratulated the two sides on “perseverance and willingness to find common ground”, and added that the United States would “work hard with all sides in pursuit of a serious reduction of violence and ceasefire”.

US Special Representative for Afghan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad said that the two sides had agreed on a “three-page agreement codifing rules and procedures for their negotiations on a political road map and a comprehensive ceasefire”.