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Afghan government welcomes 'real strides' in US-Taliban talks

13 Mar 2019 Salaam Times

KABUL -- The Afghan government has welcomed the latest progress made in talks in Doha, Qatar, between US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban representatives.

US and Taliban negotiators wrapped up their fifth round of marathon peace talks on Tuesday (March 12) with "real strides" made but no agreement on a timetable for troop withdrawal, the US special envoy said.

"We welcome US efforts in Afghan peace process," Haroon Chakhansuri, spokesperson for President Ashraf Ghani, tweeted Tuesday.

US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad participates in a discussion on "The Prospects for Peace in Afghanistan" at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, DC, February 8. [Jim Watson/AFP]

"We hope to witness a long term comprehensive ceasefire with the Taliban, and hope that direct negotiations [between the] Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban begin soon," Chakhansuri added.

"Just finished a marathon round of talks with the Taliban in #Doha. The conditions for #peace have improved. It's clear all sides want to end the war. Despite ups and downs, we kept things on track and made real strides," Khalilzad tweeted.

"Peace requires agreement on four issues: counter-terrorism assurances, troop withdrawal, intra-Afghan dialogue, and a comprehensive ceasefire," he said.

The sides reached agreement "in draft" on the first two issues, he said.

Khalilzad added the next step would be discussions in Washington but warned that "there is no final agreement until everything is agreed".

The talks in Doha focused on the withdrawal of US troops and assurances that insurgents would not use Afghanistan's territory to stage future terrorist attacks -- one of the initial preoccupations of American policy in the wake of the 9/11 attacks back in 2001.

"Progress was achieved regarding both these issues," said a Taliban spokesman.

"For now, both sides will deliberate over the achieved progress, share it with their respective leaderships and prepare for the upcoming meeting."

It is unclear as yet when the next round of talks will take place.

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