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Afghan President calls for ‘serious talks’ with Taliban

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said Monday the Taliban should “enter serious talks” with his government, after the insurgents and Washington both touted progress during unprecedented negotiations in Qatar last week.

A months-long diplomatic push by the United States to get the Taliban to talk to Kabul culminated in six days of meetings between the US and the insurgents in Doha, but the Taliban have long refused to negotiate with the Afghan government to end the 17-year conflict, branding them as “puppets”.

“I call on the Taliban to show their Afghan will, and accept Afghans’ demand for peace, and enter serious talks with the Afghan government,” Ghani said in a nationally televised address from the presidential palace in Kabul.

Sticking points remain, with topics including a ceasefire and a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops, as well as a prisoner exchange and a guarantee not to allow militant safe havens in Afghanistan believed to have been on the agenda.

US President Donald Trump’s clear eagerness to end America’s longest war has also weighed heavy on the discussions.

But Afghan authorities have previously complained of being excluded from the talks in Qatar, and warned that any deal between the US and the Taliban would require Kabul’s endorsement.

“No Afghan wants foreign troops to remain in their country indefinitely. No Afghan wants to face suicide attacks in hospitals, schools, the mosques, and parks.We want peace .” Ghani spoke hours after his office .

The palace said US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad confirmed that no agreement had been made on the withdrawal of foreign troops, adding that any such decision would be coordinated and discussed in detail with the Afghan government.

On Saturday Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that until the foreign troops withdrawal timetable is decided progress on other issues is “impossible”.

The palace’s statement said Khalilzad denied any discussions with the Taliban about any future government in Kabul. He also confirmed there had been no progress on the issue of a ceasefire.

The Taliban and US officials have agreed to continue negotiations, though no date has been publicly announced.

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