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Afghanistan Govt Announces Team For Peace Talks With Taliban

The global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has been adding challenges to the peace process and Khalilzad has said it created a need for urgency.

DESPARDES — Afghanistan’s government has announced a 21-member team — five members are women — to negotiate with the Taliban in a tentative sign of progress for the peace deal.

The development was endorsed by US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who congratulated Afghan political and civil society leaders.

“They’ve forged an inclusive negotiating team for talks with the Taliban … This consensus is a meaningful step that moves the parties significantly closer to intra-Afghan negotiations,” he said, referring to the talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban as part of a process aimed at ending the US’s longest war and bringing peace to Afghanistan.

The US signed a troop withdrawal deal with the Taliban in February in Qatar’s capital, Doha, but progress on moving to negotiations between the armed group and the Afghan government has been delayed, in part by the political feud between President Ashraf Ghani and political rival Abdullah Abdullah, who both claimed to be Afghanistan’s rightful leader following September’s disputed election.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo failed to mediate between the two men to create an “inclusive” government during a day-long visit to Kabul on Monday, and announced a $1bn cut in US aid to Afghanistan, which he said could be reversed.

The global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has been adding challenges to the peace process and Khalilzad has said it created a need for urgency.

Afghanistan so far has more than 110 confirmed cases including four deaths, and there are fears the virus is spreading from thousands crossing the border each day from hard-hit neighbor Iran.

Over 32,300 confirmed cases with 2,378 deaths have been reported in Iran, according to CSSE.

With input from AFP/Aljazeera