Afghan Taliban say will meet US officials in UAE today

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Representatives from the Afghan Taliban will meet US officials in the United Arab Emirates on Monday, the movement’s main spokesman said as diplomatic moves toward agreeing to the basis for talks to end the 17-year war in Afghanistan continue.

Zabihullah Mujahid said representatives from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the UAE would also take part in the meeting, which follows at least two meetings between Taliban officials and US special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Qatar.

He made the announcement in a statement on Twitter.

The meetings come as diplomatic efforts to resolve the Afghan conflict have intensified, although the Taliban have so far refused to deal directly with the Western-backed government in Kabul, which it considers illegitimate.

The Taliban say the presence of international forces in Afghanistan is the main obstacle to peace but have said that issues including mutual recognition with the Kabul government, constitutional changes and women’s rights can be negotiated.

On Saturday, the United States said it welcomes actions Pakistan is taking to promote a negotiated solution to the war in neighbouring Afghanistan.

The acknowledgement came a day after Prime Minister Imran Khan announced Pakistan had arranged another round of US peace talks with the Afghan Taliban scheduled for Monday.

“The United States welcomes any actions by the Pakistani government to promote greater cooperation, including fostering negotiations between the Taliban, the Afghan government, and other Afghans,” a US embassy spokesperson in Kabul told Voice of America.

Khalilzad has met, and will continue to meet, with all interested parties, including the Taliban, to support a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan, the spokesperson added.

Trump’s letter to PM Imran

Earlier this month, US President Donald Trump wrote a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan seeking Pakistan’s assistance in the Afghan peace process, aimed at catalysing an end to the 17-year invasion of Afghanistan by US troops.

Trump also sought Pakistan’s assistance in bringing the Taliban leadership to the negotiating table, it was revealed by the Pakistani premier.

The letter was followed by a visit from Khalilzad to Islamabad, during which the US envoy reiterated Trump’s desire to seek Pakistan’s cooperation for peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had assured the envoy of Pakistan’s steadfast support for a negotiated settlement.

2018-12-17

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