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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 23 January 2019

Afghan war will end when warring parties discuss political road-map: US official   

Three-day talks aimed to encourage negotiations between Taliban and Afghan government

UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed speaks to US special peace envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad ahead of talks in Abu Dhabi. 
UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed speaks to US special peace envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad ahead of talks in Abu Dhabi. 

Talks between the United States and the Taliban entered their second day on Tuesday, as a coalition of countries convened in Abu Dhabi in an attempt to kick-start negotiations to end the 17-year war.

"The war in Afghanistan will only end when Afghans sit together with mutual respect and acceptance to discuss a political road-map for their future," a spokesman at the US embassy in Abu Dhabi told The National.

An Afghan peace negotiations team had arrived in Abu Dhabi, an official said on Tuesday. The team, led by chief negotiator Abdul Salam Rahimi, "arrived in Abu Dhabi to begin proximity dialogue with the Taliban delegation and to prepare for a face-to-face meeting between the two sides", the Afghan presidential spokesman Haroon Chakhansuri tweeted.

But the Taliban have refused in the past to speak with the Afghan government, choosing instead to discuss matters with officials from the US, Pakistan, the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

In talks on Monday, the US proposed a six-month ceasefire and an agreement to name Taliban representatives to a future caretaker government, Reuters reported, citing anonymous Taliban officials.

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The proposition was resisted by the Taliban, who have said a ceasefire would damage their cause and help US and Afghan forces.

"Talks revolved around withdrawal of occupation forces from Afghanistan, ending the oppression being carried out by the United States and her allies, and views were exchanged with said countries about peace and reconstruction of Afghanistan," a Taliban spokesman said in a statement.

The US Embassy in Abu Dhabi said US special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad had met the Taliban at least three times since his appointment in September this year. The talks will end on Wednesday.

The international community has been optimistic about the possibility of talks.

"The possibility of a negotiated end to the conflict has never been more real in the past 17 years than it is now," the head of the UN mission in Afghanistan, Tadamichi Yamamoto, told the UN Security Council in New York on Monday.

But the Taliban have upped assaults on Afghan forces, even as the US increases diplomatic efforts, with thousands of people displaced by fighting.

Civilians continue to face "extreme levels of harm", a recent UN report said, with 8,050 people killed or wounded in the January to September period this year.

Updated: December 18, 2018 02:50 PM

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