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Taliban Confirms Meeting With US Envoy, To Discuss Peaceful End To Afghan Invasion

DIVYIA ASTHANA | 0
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| October 14 , 2018 , 17:42 IST

The Taliban militant group has officially admitted on Saturday that its delegation met with US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Qatar to discuss a peaceful end to the Afghanistan invasion, in the first time that either side has officially confirmed talks.

The direct negotiations were conducted as Khalilzad sought to coordinate efforts with regional countries, including Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, to convince the Taliban, Afghanistan's largest militant group to engage in talks, reported AFP.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid in a statement to journalists said that that the meeting with Khalilzad and other American officials took place in Doha on Friday.

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He said that the Taliban and US negotiators discussed a "peaceful end to the invasion in Afghanistan", referring to the US-led intervention in 2001 that toppled the Taliban regime.

While the Taliban made it clear that the presence of foreign forces in Afghanistan was a "big obstacle" to peace, both sides "agreed to continue such meetings", the Taliban spokesperson added.

The US embassy in Kabul declined to comment on the statement issued by the Taliban.

Although the Taliban reportedly met with US officials in July, including with Alice Wells, the senior official for the State Department's Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, neither side officially confirmed the meeting.

The July meeting had followed an unprecedented ceasefire between the Afghan security forces and the Taliban in June, giving rise to hopes that fighting could be brought to an end after 17 years. However, attacks by the Taliban and the Islamic State in recent months dampened the peace efforts.

The Taliban has long called for bilateral talks directly with the US, but Washington has repeatedly rejected the initiative, insisting that the talks must by Afghan-led. In an attempt to break an impasse with the militant group, the US appeared to change track in June when US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the US prepared to "participate" in talks.