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Taliban: New Round Of Peace Talks With U.S. Opening In Qatar

U.S. special representative for Afghan peace and reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad will visit the Qatari capital this month to meet Taliban negotiators.

U.S. and Taliban representatives are due to meet in Qatar to resume talks aimed at ending the 17-year war in Afghanistan, the militant group says.

Spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that the sixth round of direct meetings between the Taliban and the United States since October 2018 will start in Doha on May 1.

Washington has said that Zalmay Khalilzad, the head of U.S. efforts to force a peace deal with the Taliban, will visit the Qatari capital this month to meet Taliban negotiators.

The group has so far refused to negotiate with the Afghan government, calling it a puppet of the West, and has insisted on the withdrawal of foreign forces before talks with Kabul can begin.

During a visit to the Afghan capital on April 28, Khalilzad, who was born in Afghanistan, said that the Taliban must change its waysand agree to a cease-fire if peace is to come to the country.

"If the Taliban insist on going back to the system they used to have, in my personal opinion it means the continuation of war not peace," the U.S. envoy told the private TV station Tolo News in Kabul.

On April 29-30, Khalilzad visited Islamabad to discuss "developments in the Afghan peace process" with the Pakistani leadership, according to a statementby the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan.

The U.S. envoy "requested and received support for the need to accelerate intra-Afghan dialogue and negotiations as well as a reduction in violence, concrete steps necessary for a comprehensive settlement," the statement said.

Last week, the United States, Russia, and China said in a joint statementthat they have agreed on the goal of withdrawing foreign forces from Afghanistan and to seek an "inclusive Afghan-led" peace process.

The United States has about 14,000 troops in Afghanistan as part of Resolute Support, a NATO-led mission that provides training and assistance to security forces in Afghanistan as they battle Taliban fighters and other extremist groups, including the Islamic State group and Al-Qaeda.

On April 29 in Kabul, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani opened a four-day Loya Jirga, or grand assembly, with more than 3,200 delegates seeking to agree on a common approach to peace talkswith the Taliban.

Ghani’s special envoy, Omar Daudzai, has said that the Loya Jirga bringing together politicians, tribal elders, and other prominent figures will provide the ground for "intra-Afghan talks" with the Taliban.

But the gathering was overshadowed by no-shows by several high-ranking officials, including Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, Ghani's partner in a unity government.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and AP

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