A historic meeting between the Afghan government and the Taliban insurgency to negotiate the end of two decades of war in the country began on Saturday.

After months of delays, the Afghan delegation, led by Dr Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of National Reconciliation Council, met the Taliban leadership led by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, in person for the first time since the extremist regime was deposed during the US invasion in 2001.

An assortment of global leaders, representing regional and global stakeholders, including US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, expressed optimism about the talks in their opening remarks.

“A landmark achievement of the US-Taliban agreement was setting the stage for these negotiations,” Mr Pompeo said, referring to the deal between the US administration and the Taliban made earlier this year that has facilitated the ongoing withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.

“We urge you to make decisions that move away from the violence and the corruption and towards peace and development and prosperity,” he said.

Dr Abdullah reiterated similar optimism and thanked the Taliban for “responding positively” to the talks.

“I can tell you with confidence that history will remember today as the end of the war and suffering of our people. The current conflict has no winner, but there will be no loser if the crisis is resolved through submission to the will of the people,” he said. The Taliban leader responded with a short assurance that they intended to continue the talks with “full honesty to pave the ground for peace”.

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