A new Afghan Peace Council set up to broker efforts to reconcile with the Taliban and other insurgent groups has held its inaugural session in Kabul.
President Hamid Karzai, who hosted the meeting at his heavily guarded palace in the capital, said the Afghan people had high hopes that the council will find a path toward peace and stability.
"This Peace Council is the greatest hope for the people of Afghanistan," Karzai said. "The international community is supporting this move with all means and the people of Afghanistan hope to see success from this movement. I wish success for you, members of this high council, my sisters and brothers."
Afghan officials have said that there are ongoing contacts between the government and insurgents, but no formal negotiations are under way.
The Taliban has repeatedly said they will not take part in any peace talks as long as U.S. and NATO troops remain in the country.
Karzai today called on insurgents to view the formation of the 70-member council as an opportunity to lay down their arms and join the government.
compiled from angency reports