US peace envoy hails latest talks with Taliban as 'most productive' to date

The US peace envoy leading talks with the Taliban to end the war in said on Saturday the latest discussions were the “most productive session” to date.

Zalmay Khalilzad said substantive progress had been made on all four parts of a peace deal: counter-terrorism assurances, troop withdrawal, participation in Intra-Afghan dialogue and negotiations, and a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire.

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The two sides will resume meeting from Tuesday in Qatar, after the conclusion of Intra-Afghan talks.

The seventh round of US-Taliban talks began last week, aiming to hammer out a schedule for the withdrawal of foreign troops in exchange for guarantees that international militant groups will not use Afghanistan as a base for launching attacks.

Agreement on the timetable has been elusive, but in a sign of progress the agreed on the sidelines of the peace talks to hold separate discussions with a group of Afghan delegates.

US officials are demanding a ceasefire agreement and direct talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government before a peace deal is finalised.

Sohail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban’s political office in Qatar’s capital, Doha, said the “US-Taliban dialogue would resume after the two-day Intra-Afghan conference”.

A previously planned meeting between Afghan representatives in April collapsed before it started amid disagreement over the size of the proposed 250-strong Afghan delegation as well as over its status as a representative body.

This time, about 40 high-profile Afghan figures and activists will fly to Doha but will not have any official status – a condition made necessary by the Taliban’s refusal to deal directly with the western-backed government in Kabul.

A senior Taliban official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said ensuring the protection of the rights of women and minorities would be discussed in the Doha talks, which have been facilitated by German and Qatari officials.

Despite intensified diplomatic efforts to end the 18-year-long war in Afghanistan, deadly violence has surged across the country. Last week, the Taliban claimed a truck bomb attack in Kabul that killed six people and wounded 105 civilians, many of them children.

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Source : theguardian[dot]com