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Peace talks with Taliban would resume within weeks: Afghan officials

07 March, 2016

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KABUL: Afghan officials voiced optimism on Sunday that peace talks with the Taliban would resume “within weeks” even after the insurgents rebuffed calls for dialogue, with analysts dismissing their seemingly tough stance as a bargaining ploy.

Talks brokered by a four-country group were expected to start early this month, but the Taliban stressed on Saturday longstanding preconditions for dialogue including the departure of foreign troops from Afghanistan.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said on Sunday he was “hopeful” about peace talks aimed at ending the Taliban’s 14-year insurgency, imploring the militant group to join the negotiating table.

“I say to the Taliban that you face a big historic test — either you stand with your countrymen or with the opposition,” Mr Ghani said in an address to the Afghan parliament. “Peace is the only way forward.”

A presidential palace official insisted that the peace process would resume. “The process may be delayed but the Taliban will show up for talks — this we are sure of,” the official said.

An official from the High Peace Council, the government body responsible for negotiating with the militants, said the Taliban were “within the sphere of influence” of the four-nation group.

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