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Afghan govt & Taliban reach preliminary deal paving way for peace talks

Afghan govt & Taliban reach preliminary deal paving way for peace talks
The Afghan government and representatives of the Taliban have jointly announced reaching a preliminary deal to push on with peace talks, which could precede discussions on a political roadmap for both parties.

The first written agreement between the two sides marks a breakthrough after 19 years of war. "The procedure, including its preamble of the negotiation, has been finalized and from now on, the negotiation will begin on the agenda," said Nader Nadery, a member of the Afghan government's team for the talks.

Muhammad Naeem, a representative of the Taliban political office in Doha, Qatar, posted the same statement on his Twitter account, while the spokesman for the militant group, Zabihullah Mujahid, retweeted it.

Kabul and the Taliban have held discussions encouraged by the United States for months in Doha, but in Afghanistan, Taliban fighters continue attacking government forces.

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad welcomed the move announced on Wednesday as a "significant milestone," and explained that the document agreed in Doha codifies "rules and procedures for their negotiations on a political roadmap and a comprehensive ceasefire."

The breakthrough means that "the negotiating parties can agree on tough issues," Khalilzad tweeted, adding that "rapid progress on a political roadmap" is now needed.

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During the preliminary stages of negotiations, the Taliban refused to agree to a ceasefire, and the group dismissed the document's preamble last month because it mentioned the Afghan government, which the militants see as puppets of Washington.

However, the insurgents concluded a peace deal with the US on February 29, and it set in motion a withdrawal of all US and NATO troops from Afghanistan by May 2021.

The Taliban, which was ousted from power in Afghanistan by US-led forces in 2001, also said in early November that it expects projected US president-elect Joe Biden to stick to this peace agreement aimed at ending the war.

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