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U.S. Envoy Hails 'Significant Progress' In Talks With Taliban


U.S. special envoy for peace in Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad talks with local reporters at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul in November.

The U.S. special envoy for peace in Afghanistan says progress had been made in six days of discussions with the Taliban in Qatar aimed at bringing an end to Afghanistan's 17-year conflict.

Zalmay Khalilzad said on Twitter on January 26 that no deal had been finalized with the militants, but he said further talks would resume shortly.

He also said that he was flying back to Afghanistan to discuss the talks.

"Meetings here were more productive than they have been in the past. We have made significant progress on vital issues," Khalilzad said in a tweet.

"We have a number of issues left to work out," he said, while adding that "Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, and 'everything' must include an intra-Afghan dialogue and comprehensive ceasefire."

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that while there was "progress" at the meetings, reports of an agreement on a cease-fire and talks with Kabul "are not true."

"Since issues are of critical nature and need comprehensive discussions, therefore it was decided that talks about unresolved matters will resume in similar future meetings," Mujahid said in a statement released on January 26.

The statement added that until the withdrawal of international troops was hammered out, "progress in other issues is impossible."

Earlier, unnamed Taliban sources quoted by Reuters had said that the hard-line Islamic group had offered assurances that Afghanistan will not be allowed to be used by Al-Qaeda and the extremist group Islamic State (IS) to attack the United States and its allies.

"In 18 months, if the foreign forces are withdrawn and cease-fire is implemented then other aspects of the peace process can be put into action," a Taliban source told Reuters, quoting from the draft.

More talks on the draft are expected in February, again in the Qatari capital of Doha, Reuters reported, citing Taliban sources.

The Taliban has so far refused to hold direct talks with the Afghan government officials.

Khalilzad has held at least four meetings with Taliban representatives, but there has been no letup in the violence so far.

He has recently made visits to China, India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan in an effort to bring the Taliban and Afghan government negotiators together.

With reporting by AFP and Reuters
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