Afghan-Taliban talks could happen within two weeks: minister

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Direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban could begin within the next two weeks, an Afghan official said on Saturday, marking a potentially crucial step in efforts to end the war.

The Taliban said on Sunday they will not hold direct talks with Afghan government and rejected the statement from a senior minister about plans to hold the such as meeting within the next two weeks, a senior Taliban official said.

“Intra-Afghan talks will start only after a foreign force withdrawal is announced,” said Suhail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban’s political office in Qatar.

“We are preparing for direct talks. The government will be represented by a 15-member delegation,” said Ci, the state minister for peace affairs.

“We are working with all sides and hope that in the next two weeks the first meeting will take place in a European country.”

He did not specify where the summit might take place. Germany played a crucial role in talks in an “intra-Afghan dialogue” in Doha earlier this month, but Norway has also been involved in peace efforts.

The apparent development comes as US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad continues a visit to Kabul, where he has spent several days meeting with Ghani and US officials.

He is expected to fly to Doha at some point next week for what would be an eighth round of direct US-Taliban talks.

The two foes claim they are making progress in reaching a deal that would end America’s nearly 18-year military involvement in Afghanistan.

Any deal, however, requires the Taliban to talk to Kabul.

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