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Pakistan Says Afghan Taliban Ready To Reduce Violence

FILE: Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi
FILE: Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi

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.

Over the past year, Islamabad has helped facilitate the talks between U.S. negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad and the Taliban in Qatar, where the militants have a political office.

But the talks have repeatedly stalled, with Washington calling on the group to reduce violence, among other things.

“Today, positive progress has been made. The Taliban has shown its willingness to reduce the violence,” Qureshi said in his video statement, adding: “I think it is a step forward to the agreement for peace."

He gave no further details.

Pakistan’s military establishment is widely believed to back the insurgency in Afghanistan, which Islamabad denies.

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.

The offer was said to have been handed to Khalilzad late on January 15 in Qatar.

It wasn't immediately clear whether the reported Taliban proposal would be enough to allow for the talks with the United States to restart, with the aim of eventually signing a peace deal and putting an end to the 18-year conflict in Afghanistan -- the longest U.S. war in history.

Besides pressing for a truce, Khalilzad has said a U.S.-Taliban deal would include the start of negotiations among Afghans on both sides of the conflict to hammer out a road map to a postwar Afghanistan.

The Taliban has so far refused to talk with the Afghan government, which they consider a puppet of foreign powers.

With reporting by AFP, dpa, and AP