ashraf-ghaniThe Amir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani on Saturday promised President Ashraf Ghani that his government will make efforts to prepare grounds for a ceasefire, presidential palace in Kabul said. The palace said in a statement that the Amir of Qatar spoke to president Ghani by phone and both leaders called for a ceasefire. “Both sides stressed on immediate ceasefire while discussing the Afghan peace process and expansion of bilateral cooperation in various areas,” according to the statement posted online. Ceasefire would be on top of agenda when the Taliban and an Afghan government’s negotiation team begin the second round of negotiations in Qatar on Jan. 5. Both sides had announced a three-week break on Dec. 13 for consultations with the leadership. The Taliban have refused to declare a ceasefire and insist that the issue will be on the agenda of the intra-Afghan negotiations in accordance with the Doha agreement signed in February. There has been no letup in violence despite the signing of agreement between the United States and the Taliban in February for withdrawal of foreign troops. Both sides accuse each other of spike in violence. The Taliban have also accused the American forces of committing recurrent violations of the Doha agreement and carrying out bombardments on non-combat zones. A Taliban spokesman says the Doha agreement prohibits American forces and contractors associated with them from carrying out airstrikes or to raid and torment civilians in non-combat zones except in the immediate vicinity of fighting. Taliban spokesman Qari Yousaf Ahmadi warned the American side last week that such violations and crimes have the potential of provoking a Taliban response against American forces in which case all responsibility of consequences shall fall on American shoulders. The target killings in Kabul and other Afghan cities have emerged as a new challenge for the Afghan government. Several people including journalists were killed in target killings in recent months. No one claimed responsibility for the target killings. Prime Minister Imran Khan, who received a delegation last month, expressed concern over the high level of violence and called on all sides for reduction in violence leading to ceasefire, the prime minister’s office said. Afghan Foreign Minister Haneef Atmar said on Tuesday that Pakistan could play an influential role in convincing the Taliban to agree to a ceasefire, which is the critical component of ending violence and restoring peace in Afghanistan. Atmar offered the remarks while talking to Pakistan’s Ambassador to Afghanistan Mansoor Ahmad Khan in Kabul days after Taliban political representatives met Prime Minister Imran Khan and Foreign Shah Mahmood Qureshi on the peace process. Qatar, which will host the second round of intra-Afghan negotiations, had played the role of facilitator when the negotiations faced a stalemate over the rules and procedures. It is believed Qatar, the only country involved in the talks between the US and the Taliban, has some influence on the Taliban. The Taliban officials, however, disagree with the notion and say they are independent in decisions and will move forward in line with the Doha agreement, which is mentioned in the preamble of the 21-point rules and procedures for the negotiations.