DOHA (Reuters) - The head of Afghanistan's peace council, Abdullah Abdullah, said negotiators would discuss a reduction in violence as a priority when they met Taliban representatives on Sunday and that both sides would need to find compromises on contentious issues.
A ceremony to launch talks aimed at ending 19 years of war took place in Qatar's capital of Doha on Saturday after months of delays, followed by a meeting between representatives of both sides to work out how talks should proceed.
"One of the top most issues on the minds of the people is reduction in violence in a significant way ... and also getting to ... hopefully a permanent ceasefire," Abdullah told Reuters in an interview, adding it would be one of the first issues discussed when negotiators met the following day.
Some analysts and diplomats have raised concerns that the Taliban is entering talks with the upper hand as violence has escalated in recent months in the war-torn nation even as the United States withdraws troops.
But Abdullah said that now the Afghan government team was finally at the negotiating table, they had identified a process to ensure there were compromises on thorny issues.
Negotiators would decide on priority issues, starting with those on which is was easiest to find common ground, he added.
"One side pushes on one thing, the other side doesn't want that one - we need to find out what the solution is in between," he said.
He also emphasised the government team would focus on protecting women's rights, which many have feared will be eroded if the hardline Islamist militants were to gain formal power.
"A few things have changed dramatically in the country. Afghan women are ... in all walks of life in society, they are active participants," he said. "It's not possible to develop a country without facilitating conditions so men and women can play their role in development of the country."
(Writing by Alexander Cornwell and Charlotte Greenfield; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Pravin Char)