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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 16 November 2018

US peace envoy to visit UAE, Afghanistan, Qatar and  Pakistan

The news comes as Russia prepares to host another peace conference in Moscow on Friday.

Mr Khalilzad will spend 12 days visiting the various nations with a view to bringing the 17-year conflict to a close. AP
Mr Khalilzad will spend 12 days visiting the various nations with a view to bringing the 17-year conflict to a close. AP

US special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, will visit Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar to push for peace negotiations with the Afghan Taliban, the country's State Department said on Thursday.

Mr Khalilzad met Taliban leaders in Qatar last month as part of efforts to find a way to end the 17-year-long war in Afghanistan, according to the Islamist group that was ousted from power by US-led forces in 2001.

"On his last trip to the region in October, Special Representative Khalilzad called on the Afghan Government and the Taliban to organise authoritative negotiating teams, and has been encouraged to see that both parties are taking steps in that direction," the State Department said in a statement.

"The United States remains committed to a political settlement that results in an end to the war and to the terrorist threat posed to the United States and the world."

His trip started on Thursday and will continue until November 20.

The Taliban are fighting the US-backed Kabul government to re-impose strict Islamic law and have stepped up attacks in strategic provinces.

A senior Taliban official said after last month's talks that Mr Khalilzad had asked the Taliban leadership, based in the Qatari capital Doha, to declare a ceasefire in Afghanistan for six months.

In exchange, the Taliban want the Afghan government to release fighters from jails and the swift removal of foreign forces fighting alongside Afghan troops.

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The news of Mr Khalilzad's visit comes as Russia prepares to host peace talks in the Russian capital on Friday.

A Moscow foreign ministry statement released last week said 11 countries including the United States had been invited, saying that “it will be the first time that a delegation from the Taliban's political office in Doha will attend such a high-level international meeting”.

A statement by the US embassy in Kabul about Mr Khalilzad's diplomatic tour in October did not confirm his meeting with the Taliban.