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Khalilzad in Kabul to Discuss Ways of Resuming Peace Talks

Khalilzad in Kabul to Discuss Ways of Resuming Peace Talks

KABUL – US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad arrived in Kabul on Wednesday to meet Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to discuss ways of resuming peace talks, Reuters reported citing an Afghan government official.
Khalilzad’s trip comes days after US President Donald Trump’s surprise Thanksgiving visit to US forces at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan where he met President Ghani and announced that peace talks have restarted with the militant group.
The Afghan government, however, says it is ready for resuming the talks, but only if it is given a seat at the table and the Taliban agrees to a ceasefire.
“In Kabul, Special Representative Khalilzad will meet with Afghan government representatives and other Afghan leaders to follow up on President Trump’s recent visit and to discuss how best to support accelerated efforts to get all parties to intra-Afghan negotiations,” the US Department of State said in a statement.
In Doha, Ambassador Khalilzad will rejoin talks with the Taliban to discuss steps that could lead to intra-Afghan negotiations and a peaceful settlement of the war, specifically a reduction in violence that leads to a ceasefire.
“The US and Afghan presidents agreed on the resumption of peace negotiations but with close participation and coordination with the Afghan government,” the official told Reuters.
“Our precondition is a reduction of violence leading to a ceasefire, and that is what US wants too.”
If talks are resumed, the source added that Khalilzad’s previous format of holding separate negotiations with the Taliban as a preliminary step to later talks between Afghan participants in the conflict cannot be repeated.
Meanwhile, Khalilzad on Wednesday started meetings with Afghan leaders and met former deputy foreign minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai.
Hekmat Karzai, Chairman of the Centre for Conflict and Peace Studies, said that he had a good meeting with Khalilzad to discuss the latest in peace efforts.
“We spoke about the way forward, which amongst other things must include reduction of violence and zero civilian casualties,” he tweeted.
The US and the Taliban political representatives had finalised a peace deal in August after holding nine rounds of talks started in Qatar in October 2019. However, Trump had stalled the process.
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shahhen in reaction to Trump’s announcement at Bagram told daily Times that “Americans had withdrawn from negotiations and it is also up to them to restart the process.”
Sources say Khalilzad held informal meetings with the Taliban political representatives in Qatar last month to discuss ways for the resumption of the stalled peace process.
A Taliban source says Khalilzad proposed a week-long ceasefire for trust building before resumption of the dialogue. The Taliban have not agreed to the proposal and insisted the US should first sign the peace agreement that will lead to withdrawal of foreign troops and the Taliban will guarantee Afghan soil is not used by anyone against the US, its allies and other countries.
The US currently has nearly 13000 troops and American officials have indicated the number could be reduced to 8600.
(Sahar News)

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