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Nations To Press For Direct Peace Talks With Taliban By End Of February

Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah leaves after an interview with Reuters in New Delhi on February 4.

Representatives from four nations involved in talks aimed at ending the violence in Afghanistan have agreed to continue to push for direct peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government by the end of the month.

Official from Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United States, and China made the announcement on February 6 at the end of their third round of talks in Islamabad.

They said the countries "agreed to continue joint efforts for setting a date for direct peace talks between the representatives of the Afghan government and Taliban groups expected to take place by the end of February 2016."

"The group stressed that the outcome of the reconciliation process should be a political settlement that results in the cessation of violence, and durable peace in Afghanistan," the statement added.

The statement also said that the group would hold its next meeting in Kabul on February 23.

Pakistan has called for an "actionable road map" for the peace process between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

"In our view, a clear, well-defined, and actionable road map for the peace process between the Afghan government and Taliban groups is important," Pakistan's adviser for foreign affairs, Sartaj Aziz, said at the start of the talks.

Islamabad is expected to have a key role in bringing the Taliban, which is based in Pakistan, to the table eventually.

Kabul, too, expressed its eagerness for results.

"We are desperately waiting to see the immediate effects and results of our quadrilateral meetings and the progress we have made in the two previous meetings," Javed Faisal, deputy spokesman for Afghanistan's Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, told AP.

Aziz said the road map should be "aimed at persuading the maximum number of Taliban groups to join the peace talks."

"This will contribute to imparting a momentum to the process offering the incentive of political mainstreaming to the insurgent groups, and gradually shrink the space for the irreconcilables," he added.

Aziz said a joint effort by the quartet would help persuade the Taliban to join the process and lead to a "significant" reduction in violence.

The first round of talks was held in Islamabad last month and a second round was held in Kabul on January 18. The talks urged the Taliban groups to enter into early talks with the Afghan government without preconditions.

The Taliban has not participated in any of the talks yet.

With reporting by Reuters and AFP