Afghan peace talks: Progress is being made in Qatar with Taliban, reports US

Agencies Washington, USA Mar 06, 2019, 06.29 AM(IST)

File photo. Photograph:( AFP )

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Despite a two-day break before the weekend, negotiations continue on 'a daily basis right now and progress is being made,' spokesman Robert Palladino told journalists.

Peace talks between the US and the Taliban in Qatar have yielded progress but much remains to be done, the State Department said on Tuesday.

Washington's envoy Zalmay Khalilzad resumed negotiations on February 25, part of a months-long push to end the war in Afghanistan, America's longest-running conflict which has been raging since shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks against the US. 

Despite a two-day break before the weekend, negotiations continue on "a daily basis right now and progress is being made," spokesman Robert Palladino told journalists.

A Taliban spokesman also said on Sunday that the talks were progressing "on a step-by-step basis."

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"These discussions are ongoing and what we're focusing on are the four interconnected issues that are going to compose any future agreement," Palladino said -- listing them as "terrorism," "troop withdrawal," "intra-Afghan dialogue" and "ceasefire."

Initially, Khalilzad was to return to Washington on February 28, but discussions have continued.

"I wouldn't go so far as saying open-ended, but this is the nature of diplomacy, opportunities present themselves, we change course, we correct," said Palladino.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during an exchange with high school students in Iowa he hoped sufficient gains would be made for him to be able to take a trip to help advance the negotiations "in a couple of weeks."

In Monday's event, Pompeo also called Afghan Taliban ''terrorists.''

"I have a team on the ground right now trying to negotiate with the Taliban terrorists in Afghanistan," news agency Reuters quoted Pompeo as saying. 

The United States has not declared the Taliban a terrorist organisation.

A US State Department spokesman has declined to elaborate on the comment saying that "secretary's work speak for themselves".

"The secretary’s words speak for themselves and I am not going to go beyond that," spokesman Robert Palladino told a briefing.

He said US and Taliban representatives currently are meeting in Doha.