By Arab News
By Sayed Salahuddin
The next round of peace talks on Afghanistan will take place in Saudi Arabia, probably in January.
Saturday’s confirmation of the Saudi role followed a telephone conversation on Thursday between King Salman and the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
Ghani praised the “prominent” Saudi role “in consolidation of peace and stability in Afghanistan,” and said the next meeting in the Kingdom would be “a good step and start for subsequent processes.”
He thanked the king for his support for an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process, and the king promised to use his offices to consolidate peace and stability in Afghanistan.
Last summer, Saudi Arabia hosted a global conference of Islamic scholars to discuss the Afghan war.
A spokesman for the Afghan government-appointed High Peace Council said council members and government delegates are expected to take part in the January talks.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said discussions were continuing among the group’s leadership about the meeting’s venue and date.
Two weeks ago, American, Saudi, Pakistani and Emirati officials attended a meeting in Abu Dhabi to explore ways to end the Afghan war.
At that meeting, the Taliban said it would negotiate directly with the Afghan government only after the withdrawal of US-led troops from Afghanistan.
Since then, US President Donald Trump has surprised American allies by announcing that he intended to halve the number of US troops in Afghanistan, from 14,000 to about 7,000.
The 17-year conflict in Afghanistan is America’s longest war, and Trump has long campaigned on bringing US soldiers home. Nevertheless, in 2017 he added 4,000 troops to US forces there in an attempt to speed up the peace process.