US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad. File photo
The United States and Afghanistan stressed the need for "intra-Afghan dialogue" when US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani held talks on Saturday, a palace statement said.
Their meeting came during a marathon multi-country tour by Khalilzad, who is to visit Qatar — the usual venue for talks with the Taliban.
"Dr. Khalilzad briefed the president and other government officials about his trips and future plans for peace," a palace statement said.
"Both sides once again emphasised an intra-Afghan dialogue between the Afghan government and the Taliban, led by the Afghan government."
US President Donald Trump is eager to reach a solution to end his country's longest-ever war, which dislodged the Taliban following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.
Before Khalilzad embarked on his tour, the State Department said that in Doha, the Qatari capital, he will "press forward on negotiations with the Taliban to reach a consensus on core national security issues, and urge their participation in an inclusive intra-Afghan dialogue."
Despite several rounds of talks with Khalilzad, the Taliban have refused to negotiate with Ghani's internationally recognised government.
Hopes for a breakthrough earlier in April were dashed when a dialogue planned between the Taliban and Afghan officials in Doha collapsed at the last minute.
On Friday the US found backing from rivals Russia and China on the key formula of the peace deal it is negotiating in Afghanistan -- withdrawing troops in return for Taliban pledges not to welcome foreign extremists.
After Khalilzad met Russian and Chinese representatives in Moscow, he described the consensus as a "milestone."
A joint statement by the three countries called for an "inclusive Afghan-led" peace process and outlined points expected to feature in an eventual agreement.
On Monday, Afghanistan convenes a rare "loya jirga," where more than 2,000 people from across the country have been invited to discuss the war and US efforts to forge a peace deal with the Taliban.
The latest information from the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan shows an almost 30 per cent drop in casualties for the first half of 2019 compared to the same period last year
The somber statistic reflects what many say is a growing problem in Afghanistan's brutal war, in which civilians die not only in massive suicide bombings and insurgent attacks but also in the cross-fire as Afghan and Nato forces pursue militants.
Stakes are high for the talks which follow a week of US-Taliban negotiations with both sides eyeing a resolution to the bloody 18-year conflict.
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