UN urges Taliban, Kabul to check violence ahead of peace talks

Kabul, Jul 2 (efe-epa).- The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) on Thursday called on the government at Kabul and the Taliban to redouble efforts to protect civilians and reduce conflict ahead of intra-Afghan talks.

The UN statement comes amid an escalation in armed violence in recent weeks in Afghanistan, ahead of an unprecedented peace talks that could bring an end to almost two decades of a bloody war in the country.

According to UNAMA, the intra-Afghan talks could begin sometime this month in the Qatari capital of Doha.

“It’s taken enormous work and some brave decisions for Afghans to reach the point of being on the eve of unprecedented intra-Afghan negotiations,” said Deborah Lyons, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, according to the UNAMA statement.

The UN expressed particular concern about a fresh wave of attacks on religious leaders, health workers, members of the judiciary, activists, non-governmental organizations and journalists, which it described as “shocking and criminal.”

In the first half of 2020, there were more than 800 casualties in “deliberate attacks” on civilians, according to the statement.

“I encourage parties to lay the necessary foundation for the talks by showing their commitment to peace through immediate and concrete actions to protect civilians and reduce violence,” Lyons stressed.

The number of civilian casualties in the statement were provisional, and a full and final report on this subject for the second quarter of 2020 would be released later this month, a UNAMA spokesperson in Kabul explained to EFE.

The provisional report includes at least 18 attacks on religious leaders (six in June), 13 verified incidents targeting health workers (two in June), 11 against members of the judiciary (three in June), six against activists, five against nonprofits, and three against journalists.

UNAMA noted that the use of indirect fire during ground engagements in civilian-populated areas has caused roughly 25 percent of the civilian casualties in the second quarter of 2020.

“There are spoilers who do not wish to see an end to war. No matter what tactics they employ to de-rail the peace process, they cannot be allowed to succeed,” said Lyons, who also serves as the head of the UN mission.

The UN statement comes amid efforts to clear the path towards the commencement of the intra-Afghan talks to usher in peace in the country along the lines of an agreement signed between the US and the Taliban on Feb.29 in Doha.

According to the agreement, Washington would pull its troops out of Afghanistan by mid-2021 in exchange for security guarantees from the Taliban.

However, the intra-Afghan talks, originally scheduled to begin on Mar.10, have been delayed by disagreements between the insurgents and the government at Kabul regarding a prisoner swap process, a precondition for starting the talks.

Afghan and Taliban officials have been holding negotiations to complete the exchange of 5,000 Taliban prisoners for 1,000 Afghan security forces captured by the insurgents so that the talks may begin. EFE-EPA


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