Afghan President Ghani travels to Qatar amid peace talks

KABUL (Reuters) – Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani is travelling to Qatar for a bilateral meeting with Qatari leaders but will not hold a meeting with Taliban officials even as peace talks are underway in the country’s capital city Doha, officials said on Monday.

Negotiations between the Afghan government and Afghan Taliban that started last month are aimed at the warring sides agreeing to a reduction of violence and a possible new power-sharing agreement in Afghanistan.

Violence, however, has not abated even as Afghan negotiators have been engaged in direct talks for the first time ever.

Scores of Afghan soldiers and Taliban fighters have been killed in intensive clashes and suicide attacks have left dozens of civilians dead in recent weeks across the war-torn country.

Ghani and his team will be stopping first in Kuwait to attend the funeral ceremony of the late Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah before travelling to Qatar on Monday, a close aide to Ghani told Reuters.

“Several meetings are planned to discuss efforts for deepening Afghanistan-Qatar ties and mutual cooperation in various areas,” said the official adding that Ghani will also meet the Afghan representatives who are holding talks with Taliban.

“But it is clear that Ghani will not meet the Taliban officials as there has been no reduction of violence and they continue to kill innocent civilians,” said a senior western diplomat overseeing the ongoing peace process.

The intra-Afghan talks are part of a February deal between the militants and the United States that has cleared the way for U.S. forces to withdraw from their longest war.

But so far there has been no progress as the warring Afghans have become bogged down on processes and procedures, diplomatic sources said.