Wednesday, 12 December, 2018

U.S. Envoy Meets Taliban In Push for Afghan Peace Talks

US envoy for Afghan peace Khalilzad meets Taliban officials in Qatar: WSJ U.S. Envoy Meets Taliban In Push for Afghan Peace Talks
Deanna Wagner | 14 October, 2018, 08:21

Zalmay Khalilzad, an Afghan-born US diplomat, met with Taliban leaders in Doha, Qatar on Friday in an effort to find a way to end the 17-year-old war in Afghanistan.

Taliban leaders will continue to meet for discussions with the newly appointed U.S. special envoy for peace efforts in Afghanistan, the Taliban said on Saturday, a move that could accelerate diplomatic engagement between the warring sides. "Both sides agreed to continue meeting in the future", Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in a statement.

"The Taliban are not ready to involve any third party in negotiations with the U.S. However later they will want a guarantor that could be the UN, China, Russia etc. anyone the Taliban trust", Khan claimed.

Another senior Taliban member said the USA envoy had asked the Taliban leadership to declare a ceasefire in Afghanistan for six months in time for the planned October 20 parliamentary elections.

Since Khalilzad last visited Kabul on October 4, his tour has taken him to Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.

"I think any time we're there on the ground we're making headway", State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert told reporters on Thursday when asked whether Khalilzad was making any progress in the Afghan peace talks. Khalilzad was in the Afghan capital Saturday meeting with President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, AP reported citing the embassy as its source. It added that the US envoy reiterated Washington's support for "Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process".

USA officials in Kabul were not immediately available to comment on Khalilzad's visit. It did not mention anything about the US envoy's meeting with the Taliban.

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The group has long called for bilateral talks with the United States, but Washington has repeatedly refused, insisting the process must be Afghan-led.

No further details have been given regarding the briefing made by Ambassador Khalilzad regarding his recent trips.

Alice Wells, the State Department deputy assistant secretary for South and Central Asia, met Taliban officials in Doha in July for what were described as talks about talks.

Signaling a thaw in the frozen Afghan peace process, the Taliban on Saturday confirmed reports that they had held talks with US' newly-appointed envoy for the reconciliation process.

The Taliban in exchange are seeking the release of their fighters from Afghan jails and the removal of foreign troops now aiding Afghan security forces. The insurgent group has been calling for direct talks with the USA, blaming Washington for starting the Afghan war.

"After the July meeting, there was another meeting between US and Taliban leaders scheduled in September".