Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 21 August 2019

US envoy to hold new Taliban talks this month

Zalmay Khalilzad has embarked on a 17-day trip in which he will visit the UAE

In this February 8, 2019, file photo, Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad speaks at the US Institute of Peace, in Washington. AP
In this February 8, 2019, file photo, Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad speaks at the US Institute of Peace, in Washington. AP

Washington's envoy charged with brokering a peace deal with the Taliban is to hold new talks with the militant group this month, the seventh round in the latest US bid to bring an end to the 18-year-long conflict.

Afghan-born Zalmay Khalilzad will meet with Taliban officials in Doha, the Qatari capital, later this month, the US State Department said. The date was not confirmed. He will meet them in a bid "to move the peace process forward," the State Department said.

On Friday, he left for a 17-day trip to Qatar, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Germany, Belgium and the United Arab Emirates.

At his other stops, Mr Khalilzad will work to build international support for the Afghan peace process.

The talks so far have focused on a timetable for US troop withdrawal as well as Taliban guarantees that they won't harbour terrorist groups or allow Afghanistan to be used as a staging ground for global terror attacks.

Despite some progress, with both sides believed to have agreed on various aspects of a proposed deal, violence between the Taliban and US-backed Afghan government forces has continued unabated.

A major sticking point remains the refusal of the Taliban to negotiate with Ghani's government, which enjoys international support.

Mr Khalilzad will start his trip in Pakistan – the chief backer of the Taliban before the September 11, 2001 attacks – which has used its deep ties to the militants to facilitate talks with the Taliban.

In Kabul, he will meet representatives of civil society and women's rights groups, which have been especially concerned about a future Afghanistan with the Taliban at the helm.

On Friday, former president Hamid Karzai mistakenly declared the Taliban had announced a new ceasefire after hearing an old message the insurgents had put out last year.

Mr Karzai's announcement unleashed a brief spell of confusion across the country, with media outlets firing off tweets and breaking news reports announcing the alleged truce.

Updated: June 2, 2019 10:49 AM

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