Next round of Afghan-Taliban talks set for July 30 in China

KABUL: The second round of official talks between representatives of the Kabul government and the Taliban, aimed at ending the 14-year war, will take place on July 30 in China, an Afghan official said Friday.

The two sides are still working out the details such as the list of attendants, which should be finalized in the coming days, said Mohammad Ismail Qasimyar of the High Peace Council, the body charged with negotiating a settlement with the insurgents.

Qasimyar told The Associated Press that Kabul would request a temporary cease-fire in the fighting, which has intensified following the April launch of the Taliban's warm-weather offensive.

"We are willing to enter into a cease-fire and it would be a good test to see if fighters on the ground are willing to accept a cease-fire directive from the Taliban leadership," he said.

The first round of official face-to-face talks took place in Islamabad on July 7, supervised by American and Chinese representatives. They followed several informal contacts since President Ashraf Ghani came into office last year. Ghani has made peace talks with the Taliban a priority.

Ghani's deputy spokesman Zafar Hashemi would not confirm details of the next round of talks but said the president is seeking that those representing the Afghan side include people "from all sectors of society" — women, civil society, peace activists as well as jihadi leaders who fought against the Soviet invasion and the Taliban's 1996-2001 regime.

Hashemi said Ghani has special concerns that women be represented "because of the fears that people have had that the protections for women will be compromised in a peace deal."

Spokesman for the High Peace Council, lawmaker Shazada Shahid, said at least one woman will be on the government team.

He also said the Taliban had made several demands of their own in the talks so far, including the removal of Taliban names from U.N. and U.S. blacklists, which would enable their members to travel internationally.