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Signing peace deal is near

US-Taliban talks resume, rising prospects of an end to violence

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KABUL: Talks between the United States and the Taliban have been resumed aimed at finding a political settlement to the Afghan conflict and also ending the American’s longest war.

After a month-long break, the peace talks has resumed in Qatar, where discussions were all about “signing of the agreement and ceremonial preparation,” Taliban spokesman Suhil Shaheen said.

“Taliban negotiation team led by Political Deputy and Chief of Political Office, Mullah Baradar, held a meeting with the US negotiation team and discussed issued related to the ceremony and signing of the agreement,” Taliban spokesman said in a tweet.

Both negotiation teams held productive talks on Thursday and Friday. Talks will continue for several days and “we shall share information” about it at various intervals,” Shaheen added.

Statement from the Taliban did not mention a single word about ceasefire or reduction in violence. Reacting to the statement, the Afghan government says ceasefire is the only way toward lasting peace.

Previously, two sources privy to the development said that Taliban will implement a 10-day ceasefire with U.S. troops, a reduction in violence with Afghan forces and discussions with Afghan government officials if it reaches an agreement with US negotiators in talks in Doha.

If an agreement is reached, the move could revive hopes for a long-term solution to the conflict in Afghanistan.

The stop-start talks between Taliban militants and the United States to end the 18-year war in Afghanistan were called off in September by US President Donald Trump after an American soldier was killed in an attack by the Taliban in downtown of Kabul.

12 innocent Afghans were also killed in the attack, in which President Trump said that Taliban has no desire for peace.

Talks that had resumed after Trump visited U.S. troops in Afghanistan in November were put on “pause” again the following month after the Taliban launched a suicide attack on a U.S. base outside Kabul killing two civilians.

However, two sources close to the matter told Reuters that the Taliban’s top leadership had discussed and agreed to implement a 10-day ceasefire with U.S troops once an agreement was signed with U.S. officials in Doha, and “reduce” attacks against the Afghan government as well.

A senior Taliban commander said: “The U.S. wanted us to announce a ceasefire during the peace talks which we had rejected. Our shura (council) has agreed to a ceasefire the day the peace accord is signed.”

“Our representatives have been meeting with the U.S. negotiation team in Doha and they persistently demanded a ceasefire which we had declined due to some issues,” the Taliban commander said. “Now most of our reservations have been addressed.”

A date for the signing of the agreement with the U.S. side has not been fixed, but the Taliban commander said he expected it to be “very soon.”

The Afghan Taliban has shown “willingness” to reduce violence in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s foreign minister has said, calling it a “step toward” a peace deal between the militant group and the United States.
Shah Mehmood Qureshi made the comments in a video statement on January 16, amid reports that the Taliban has proposed a brief cease-fire to the United States.
Also on January 16, AP and AFP quoted militants familiar with the negotiations as saying that the Taliban had given Khalilzad a document outlining its offer for a truce that would last between seven and 10 days.

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