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Negotiators from the United States and the Afghan Taliban have reached "agreements in principle" on key issues for a peace deal that would end 17 years of war in Afghanistan, the top US envoy said on Monday.
In a statement, Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, said the two sides have agreed in principle to the framework of a deal in which the Taliban would guarantee that Afghan territory will never be used by terrorists, which the envoy said could "lead to a full pullout of US troops in return for larger concessions from the Taliban".
Khalilzad said those concessions must include the Taliban"s agreement to a cease-fire and to talk directly with the Afghan government, which the Taliban have persistently opposed in the past.
In a New York Times interview, Khalilzad said: "We have a draft of the framework that has to be fleshed out before it becomes an agreement.
"There is a lot more work to be done before we can say we have succeeded in our efforts but I believe for the first time I can say that we have made significant progress."
At the same time, Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani also called on the Taliban to give up fighting and engage in direct talks with the government to reach a negotiated settlement to the country"s prolonged crisis, Xinhua News Agency reported.
"I am calling upon the Taliban to initiate serious talks in return for lasting peace in Afghanistan," Ghani said in a televised speech on Monday.
He stressed that the US and other foreign forces are in Afghanistan because they are needed and if there is to be any downsizing or pullout, the Kabul government will have to play a role in the talks.
According to Reuters, keeping Afghanistan from reverting to a "terrorist haven" used by al-Qaida to conduct the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States－the catalyst for the nearly two-decade-old war－has long been a primary demand by Washington.
Although the Taliban have been distancing themselves from al-Qaida, they have never denounced the group. Taliban fighters still intermingle with militants from other groups in parts of Afghanistan and maintain relationships of coexistence with some of them, Reuters reported.
After nine years of halting efforts to reach a peace deal with the Taliban, the draft framework, though preliminary, is the biggest tangible step toward ending a war that has cost tens of thousands of lives and profoundly changed US foreign policy, analysts said.
A senior US official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss continuing negotiations, said the Taliban delegation had asked for time to confer with their leadership about Washington"s requirements for the agreement to hold direct talks with the Afghan government and to a cease-fire.
Another senior Taliban official with direct knowledge of the talks confirmed the draft agreement on the issue of troop withdrawal and the Taliban pledge that Afghan soil would not be used against others. He said "working groups" would iron out details on a timeline.personalised silicone wristbands ukprinted wristbandsembossed silicone braceletssilicone medical alert bracelet diabetescustom silicone bracelets canada