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Taliban Says 'No Agreement' On Direct Talks With Afghan Government

FILE: Members of a Taliban delegation, led by chief negotiator Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (Center, front), leave after peace talks with Afghan politicians in Moscow in May.

The Taliban has rejected a statement from a senior Afghan minister about plans to hold direct talks between the militant group and the government in Kabul.

Suhail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban's political office in Qatar, said on July 28 that negotiations with the government will only come after an agreement has been reach with the United States on the departure of foreign forces from Afghanistan.

Another Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said there had been “no agreement” on a meeting between government officials and the insurgent group.

Once the insurgents reach a deal with the United States, the Taliban would be open to intra-Afghan talks, Mujahid said, insisting that any government representatives would have to participate in a personal capacity.

The comments come the day after Abdul Salam Rahimi, Afghanistan's state minister for peace affairs, told reporters that a 15-member Afghan government delegation was "preparing for direct talks" with the Taliban.

"We are working with all sides and hope that in the next two weeks the first meeting will take place in a European country," Rahimi said, as U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad was continuing a visit to Kabul.

Khalilzad is expected to return to Qatar during the next week for an eighth round of direct talks between U.S. officials and Taliban negotiators to end the nearly 18-year war in Afghanistan.

Both Washington and the Taliban have said recently that they were making progress toward reaching a peace deal, which would require direct talks between the Taliban and representatives of Afghanistan's government.

The Taliban so far has refused to speak to Ghani's government in any official capacity, saying it is illegitimate and is a puppet of foreign states.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan

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