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Informal talks between the Taliban and United States have concluded with both sides expressing willingness to pursue the Afghan peace process, it was learnt. Diplomatic sources told Business Recorder that the Doha-based Mullah Abdul Ghani Taliban Political Commission (TPC) represented the Afghan Taliban while the US side was led by the Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad in informal talks facilitated by Pakistan.

They said two sides will update their respective leadership on the discussions held during the last few days while Taliban remained reluctant to agree to the key US demand to announce a complete ceasefire in Afghanistan.

However, there was no immediate comment from the either side on informal talks.

A 12-member Taliban delegation representing its political office in Doha arrived on October 2, 2019 and held talks with civil and military leadership of the country, besides holding informal discussions with Khalilzad who arrived in Islamabad along with a five-member US delegation a day before Taliban team's arrival.

Both Khalilzad and Mullah Baradar have held several rounds of dialogue in Qatar before US President Donald Trump announced cancellation of a 'secret' meeting at the Camp David and the peace dialogue on September 7, 2019 after a Taliban bomb attack in Kabul killed an American soldier.

The Taliban, according to sources, want to pursue the tentative agreement already signed with Khalilzad in Doha, and did not agree on a ceasefire till the complete withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.

"If there is progress and the US agrees to the understanding reached between the two sides in Doha, it will be followed by an intra-Afghan dialogue," a source told this newspaper.

After holding a meeting with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, in which ISI chief Lt-Gen Faiz Hameed was also present, the two sides called for resumption of the stalled dialogue process between the US and the Taliban.

Sources further said the outcome of the recently-held presidential elections in Afghanistan would impact on the peace deal depending on who wins the elections - Ashraf Ghani or Abdullah Abdullah.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019

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