US-Taliban negotiations in Doha take short pause after '3 solid days of talks'



US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban representatives kick off the fifth round of Afghan peace talks February 25 in Doha, Qatar. The talks will resume March 2 after a two-day pause. [Qatari Foreign Ministry/Twitter]

DOHA -- The United States and the Taliban are pausing on negotiations in Doha, with the diplomatic push aimed at ending the war in Afghanistan set to restart Saturday (March 2) following "solid" talks between the adversaries.

"Emerging from three solid days of talks with the Taliban in #Doha. Meetings were productive," tweeted US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad Thursday (February 28).

"We continue to take slow, steady steps toward understanding and eventually #peace," he said.

"Both sides will take the next two days for internal deliberations, with plans to regroup on Saturday," Khalilzad added.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid confirmed the pause, adding the insurgents were "committed to the current peace process along with peace".

The United States has continued to push for a ceasefire in the war-torn country and for the opening of negotiations between the Taliban and the Kabul government.

Progress on several fronts

Headway is being made on the issue, Khalilzad hinted, tweeting, "There is also progress on forming a national team in #Kabul ready to engage in intra-Afghan dialogue and talks with the Taliban".

President Ashraf Ghani indirectly addressed the talks Thursday afternoon, saying only an Afghan-led peace process would provide lasting stability.

"Afghanistan wants co-operation and collaboration, but Afghans and the legitimate government of Afghanistan should own the peace process," Ghani said during a women's peace summit in Kabul.

Earlier in the week, Khalilzad met with Taliban political chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Doha, in what has been touted as the highest-level engagement between the two sides in the months-long diplomatic thrust.

Khalilzad welcomed the presence of Baradar -- a co-founder of the Taliban -- at the table, calling the militants' negotiating side a "more authoritative Taliban delegation".

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