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U.S. opens first round of new peace talks with Taliban

10:56 09 December 2019 Author :  

KABUL, Afghanistan — U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad held on Saturday the first official talks with Afghanistan's Taliban since President Donald Trump declared a near-certain peace deal with the insurgents dead in September.

The talks will initially focus on getting a Taliban promise to reduce violence, with a permanent cease-fire being the eventual goal, said a U.S. statement. Khalilzad is also trying to lay the groundwork for negotiations between Afghans on both sides of the protracted conflict.

The meetings being held in the Middle eastern State of Qatar, where the Taliban maintain a political office, follow several days of talks in Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, where Khalilzad met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

The Taliban have so far refused direct talks with Ghani calling him a U.S. puppet.

Ghani leads the Afghan government with Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah in a power-sharing agreement brokered by the United States after the presidential elections in 2014 were so deeply mired in corruption that a clear winner could not be determined.

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