The Afghan government and the Taliban have settled a number of key issues that have been leading peace talks for weeks, telling AFP on Friday that several people have paved the way for moving the talks forward.
Negotiations began on September 12 in Doha, the capital of Katri, but almost collapsed due to disagreements over the basic structure of the agenda, discussions and religious interpretations.
However, after days of discussions on the sidelines, it appears negotiators have now paved the way for full peace talks.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior Pakistan-based Taliban leader told AFP that “substantial progress” had been made.
“We are close to the announcement and the launch of official talks,” he said.
“A joint statement will be issued shortly,” he said, adding that the announcement could take place in the coming days.
A second Taliban source in Pakistan confirmed that the two sides have agreed on ground rules to start formal talks. A third source close to the Taliban also confirmed the development.
An Afghan official with interlocutors in Doha told AFP that the two teams have now settled several contentious issues, paving the way for negotiations to begin.
The official said several members of the Afghan government negotiating team recently returned to Kabul for final consultations, after which President Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, who heads the peace process for Kabul, are expected to announce a breakthrough.
By far the most important points, the Taliban and the Afghan government have struggled to agree on a common language on two main issues.
The Taliban, who are Sunni fundamentalists, have insisted on following the Hanafi school of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence, but government negotiators say it can be used to discriminate against thousands of people, mostly Shiites, and others are in the minority.
Another controversial topic is how the US-Taliban deal will shape the future peace deal and how it will be mentioned.
The Doha peace talks came after the Taliban and Washington signed an agreement in February, in which the United States agreed to withdraw all foreign forces to ensure security, and the Taliban vowed to resume negotiations.
Despite the talks, violence in Afghanistan has escalated, with the Taliban stepping up daily attacks on Afghan security forces.
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and posted from a syndicated feed.)