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U.S. Calls On Kabul To Form 'Unified, Inclusive' Negotiating Team For Peace Talks

U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad speaks in Washington on February 8.
U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad speaks in Washington on February 8.

The U.S. special representative for Afghanistan has called on the Afghan government to create a "unified, inclusive, and national negotiating team" to join in peace talks with Taliban negotiators.

Zalmay Khalilzad said the Afghan negotiating team should include members of "the Afghan government and other Afghans."

Khalilzad issued the call in a Twitter statement on February 22 after meeting in Ankara with his Russian counterpart, Ambassaodr Zamir Kabulov, to discuss how to move the Afghan peace process forward.

"Ambassador Kabulov and I also discussed travel barriers to talks," Khalilzad said. "We will explore options for securing UN travel waivers for Taliban negotiators to participate in peace talks."

"We also agreed that any final agreement must guarantee that Afghan soil is never used by international terrorists against any country," Khalilzad tweeted. "Also discussed a potential regional framework to coordinate efforts for peace and deter spoilers."

The February 22 meeting between Khalilzad and Kabulov came ahead of the next round of talks between U.S. diplomats and members of the Taliban, which is scheduled in Qatar's capital, Doha, on February 25.

Afghan Taliban leaders said on February 21 that their new political chief, Taliban co-founder and military veteran Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, will not attend the February 25 talks because he has had difficulties obtaining travel documents.

The Taliban also said there are differences among the Taliban leadership over the precise role that Baradar should have in the talks.

Baradar was released from a Pakistani jail in October. His appointment was widely seen as marking a new push by the Taliban to achieve political and diplomatic legitimacy.