EU, US agree to restart Afghan peace parley

KABUL, Afghanistan 

Afghanistan’s western backers have agreed to work with the Kabul government, the Taliban and civil society leaders to reach sustainable peace agreement in the country, an official statement said on Wednesday.

According to the U.S. State Department statement, special envoys and special representatives of the European Union, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, the U.K. and the U.S. met in EU Headquarters, Brussels on Oct. 22.

It said the participants “acknowledged the widespread and sincere demand of the Afghan people for a lasting peace and an end to the war”.

The statement called on all sides to observe a ceasefire for the duration of intra-Afghan negotiations to enable participants to reach agreement on a political roadmap for Afghanistan’s future.

It called on Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and other prominent Afghan leaders to focus on preparing the government for formal intra-Afghan negotiations with the Taliban, including the naming of an inclusive, national negotiating team.

Meanwhile, a Taliban spokesman said on Wednesday a fresh round of intra-Afghan dialogue is going to be held in China next week.

Taliban’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Anadolu Agency that Deng Xijun, China’s special representative for Afghanistan, met with Taliban’s political chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Doha, Qatar’s capital, late Tuesday and invited the group to a Beijing conference.

The Taliban have accepted the invitation and they will send a delegation to attend the conference, Mujahid said.

The High Peace Council in Afghanistan has also confirmed participation at the forthcoming peace moot in Beijing.

Early September, U.S. President Donald Trump declared the peace talks with the Taliban “dead” following a recent attack in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul which killed a dozen people, including a U.S. service member.

Following the U.S. move, the Taliban opened new battle fronts across the war-weary nation, as Afghan security forces — suffering casualties and desertions — struggle to beat back a revitalized insurgency.

On Monday, the U.S. State Department said Zalmay Khalilzad, the special U.S. envoy for Afghan reconciliation, departed for his visit to Brussels, Paris, and Moscow.

In Moscow, Khalilzad will meet with Russian and Chinese representatives “to discuss shared interests in seeing the war in Afghanistan come to an end,” the State Department said in its statement.
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