Taliban rejects ‘peace talks’ with US officials, ‘agenda disagreements’ over Afghan involvement

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The Taliban has on Tuesday said, they had turned down to have peace talks with the United States officials in Qatar, going to be held this week, because of an “agenda disagreement” over the involvement of Afghanistan officials, also possible ceasefire and prisoner exchange.

According to news reported by Reuters, the Taliban officials said two-day peace talks had been set to begin on Wednesday, but the Islamic State militant group has denied allowing “puppet” Afghanistan officials to join the talks.

In a tweet, the U.S. ambassador to Kabul, John Bass wrote: “Reports of US-Taliban talks Wednesday inaccurate. Taliban should talk to fellow Afghans as much as they talk to media.”

The US embassy in the Afghanistan capital, in a separate tweet, stressed over intra-Afghan talks as “essential” to settle the Afghan conflict.

The US state department announced the US special representative for Afghan reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad would be leading an interagency delegation to Pakistan, China, India, and Afghanistan from January 8 to 21, would hold talks with senior government officials in each of the countries “to facilitate an intra-Afghan political settlement”.

The department further said Khalilzad was promoting its efforts to coordinate with Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani, including chief executive Abdullah and other Afghan country stakeholders.

The statement said: “The U.S. goal is to promote dialogue among Afghans about how to end the conflict, and to encourage the parties to come together at the negotiating table to reach a political settlement.”

A Taliban reports said the US officials had urged the Taliban to meet Afghan officials in Qatar saying “both sides were in disagreement over declaring a ceasefire in 2019”. It added, “Both sides have agreed to not meet in Qatar.”

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said both sides were working on technical details and were not clear over the agenda for peace talks.

A Taliban leader told Reuters, the talks with Khalilzad, fourth session, would have included the US withdrawal, imposing a ban on the Taliban leaders’ movement and also prisoner exchange.

A Taliban official said, “We would never announce any ceasefire until and unless we achieve major gains on the ground. We have the feeling that Zalmay Khalilzad doesn’t have enough power to make important decisions.”

The Taliban has reiterated its rejection to a request to allow Afghanistan officials to take part in peace talks and insisted that the US is the main adversary in-between.

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