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Taliban, Afghan government to restart peace talks in Doha

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar virtually attends the intra Afghan talks in Doha

The Brussels-based organisation urged the government and the Taliban to "seize this opportunity for peace" at the start of talks which are expected to be rocky.

Abdullah Abdullah, who was previously Afghanistan's chief executive and is heading the peace process for Kabul, said 12,000 civilians have been killed and another 15,000 wounded just since the United States signed a withdrawal agreement with the Taliban on February 29.

Under the terms of that force withdrawal deal struck between the U.S. and the Taliban, 5,000 Taliban prisoners have already been released in exchange for 1,000 government forces.

In a video message to open the negotiations, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said the talks present a "major opportunity to achieve the long-held aspirations of the people of Afghanistan for peace".

On the issue of terrorism, Jaishankar said, "soil of Afghanistan should not be used for anti-India activities".

Here's where things stand going into the talks. According to the agreement, the USA would facilitate the talks which were due to begin on March 10, and that the Afghan government would release 5,000 Taliban prisoners while the Taliban would release 1,000 captives the militant group was holding.

Protection of rights, particularly women's, will also be high on the agenda. The eyes of the global community are likely to be the biggest motivator for making progress for women.

"As you make your decisions, you should keep in mind that your choices and conduct will affect both the size and scope of future US assistance". The insurgent movement has said it accepted a woman's right to work, go to school and participate in politics but would not accept a woman as president or chief justice. Abdullah's appointment to head the council was part of a power sharing deal with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, ending their months of squabbling over the results of controversial presidential polls the year before. Other housekeeping issues include deciding on the name of the country: Islamic Republic or Islamic Emirate?

The United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo affirmed the role of Qatar and its great support for bringing peace to Afghanistan, noting that the historic negotiations that started in Doha on Saturday launched a new path for the peace process.

On the Taliban side, the 20-member negotiating team is a solid group that includes 13 members from the movement's leadership council. Since then, the Taliban has waged a almost two-decade insurgency against US -backed Afghan governments and American-led forces. But following a meeting with the Taliban on Saturday in Doha, Washington's peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said the USA and every Afghan would like to see a deal "sooner rather than later". The strength of the team means they can make decisions pretty much on the spot.

The Afghan government's top negotiator thanked the Taliban for their "willingness to negotiate" as the opening ceremony began.

On Thursday, the Afghan government released six more prisoners sought by the Taliban, of whom two have been convicted of killing two French nationals.

Until now, the Taliban have persistently refused to recognize the Afghan government as legitimate.

Many Afghans who've travelled here described this day as emotional.

"There is no victor through war or military means, but there will be no loser if this crisis is resolved through submission to the will of the people", said Abdullah, the chairman of Afghanistan's High Council for National Reconciliation.