By Shadi Khan Saif
KABUL, Afghanistan (AA) – The crucial ninth round of rejuvenated yet fragile peace talks between the U.S. and Taliban were set to resume on Sunday in the Qatari capital, Doha.
Speculations surrounding the establishment of an interim government in Kabul overshadowed the first two days of talks that commenced on Friday with a wide range of media outlets reporting an alleged agreement between the two parties has been reached. However, the top U.S. peace negotiator rejected such reports around midnight on Saturday.
''As the Taliban spokesperson stated earlier, we have had no discussions about an interim government. Governance decisions are for Afghans to make in intra-Afghan negotiations'', Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation tweeted.
Prior to that, the Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen also rebuked such reports.
This comes weeks ahead of the proposed presidential elections in Afghanistan that the Taliban insurgents are opposing.
Meanwhile, the top U.S. diplomat in Kabul Ambassador John Bass has said peace in Afghanistan remains 'highest priority'.
During a trip to Balkh province, he said on Saturday the elections should be held on its scheduled time if there is a hurdle in the way of the peace process.
“Both (peace process and elections) are important for the United States. Peace is our highest priority because it is also the highest priority of the Afghan people. And every day, we have Afghans telling us that peace is their highest priority,” Mr. Bass said. “So, we are working very hard to create that opportunity for Afghans to sit together, to negotiate, to work out their differences and to try to achieve a durable peace agreement which is accepted by most of the people of this country and is therefore implemented.”
On the proposed withdrawal of troops, Ambassador Bass said if the Taliban want to see international forces depart, then they are going to have to ensure that there are no future terrorist threats against the United States, allies and partners from Afghanistan.