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U.S. Envoy Briefs Pakistani Officials On Peace Talks With Taliban

Zalmay Khalilzad met Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in Islamabad
Zalmay Khalilzad met Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in Islamabad

U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is on a two-day visit to Pakistan to brief the country's leaders about his latest negotiations with the Afghan Taliban.

"We will go to any extent for Afghan peace," Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said at a meeting with the U.S. envoy, according to a Pakistani official.

The country's state-run media said Khalilzad praised Islamabad's role in facilitating the peace process.

Pakistan and its spy agency, which are often accused of harboring Afghan militants, are said to have considerable influence on the group.

Khalilzad last week resumed talks with Taliban negotiators in the Qatari capital, Doha, where the insurgents maintain a political office.

The talks were the first direct contact between the sides since U.S. President Donald Trump three months ago halted negotiations to end the 18-year war in Afghanistan.

But Khalilzad said the negotiations were taking a "brief pause" after the Taliban on December 11 staged an attack on the main U.S. military base in Afghanistan.

Taliban fighters struck near the Bagram Airfield, killing at least two Afghan civilians and wounding more than 70 other people, including five Georgian soldiers.

"When I met the Talibs today, I expressed outrage about yesterday's attack on Bagram...Taliban must show they are willing & able to respond to Afghan desire for peace," the Afghan-born U.S. diplomat tweeted overnight.

Therefore, Khalilzad said, "We're taking a brief pause for them to consult their leadership on this essential topic."

Meanwhile, the spokesman for the Taliban's political office, Suhail Shaheen, described the latest negotiations as "positive and good."

Khalilzad is trying to lay the groundwork for negotiations between Afghans on both sides of the conflict, with the Taliban refusing to talk directly with the Western-backed government in Kabul.

The restart of talks in Doha followed Trump's surprise Thanksgiving visit to see U.S. troops in Afghanistan on November 28, when he voiced hope that "the Taliban wants to make a deal and we are meeting with them."

With reporting by dpa and AP

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