Fri, 19 Apr 2019

WASHINGTON -- U.S. officials have exchanged views with representatives of Russia and China on the current status of the Afghan peace process, the State Department says.

In a statement on March 22, the department said representatives met in Washington on March 21-22 and discussed common efforts to bring peace, prosperity, and security to Afghanistan.

They underscored their respect for the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of Afghanistan, as well as Afghanistans right to make its own political, security, and economic decisions, the statement added.

It said the three countries agreed to hold further discussions on the issue and that the exact dates and sites for such talks are to be decided.

The statement did not list which officials were involved in the discussions, although on March 20, the State Department announced that the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, would meet with officials from Russia and China on the matter.

That statement said Zamir Kabulov, Russia's presidential envoy to Afghanistan; Deng Xijun, his Chinese counterpart; and Roland Kobia, the EU's special envoy, would be part of the briefing.

Russian state-run TASS news agency said Kabulov attended the talks in Washington.

And, simultaneously but separately, the State Department said Khalilzad had held consultations with Kobia, although it was not clear if the talks were together with the other diplomats or bilateral.

Khalilzad and Kobia agreed that bringing an end to Afghanistans war and achieving peace must be the key objective, and that violence should cease, the statement said.

Both sides underscored their respect for the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of Afghanistan, it said, adding that the United States and EU encourage all countries to support the current peace process, inclusive intra-Afghan talks, and lasting development and reconstruction in Afghanistan.

The government in Kabul is fighting against Taliban extremists, who are attempting to reclaim control of the Afghan government.

The Taliban controlled the Afghan government before being driven from power in 2001 by a U.S.-led invasion after it refused to end support for Al-Qaeda terrorists following the September 11 terror attacks in the United States.

Taliban leaders, who took control in 1996, imposed a harsh form of Islamic law that denied education and work to women and girls as they cracked down on other social activities.

They were accused by international groups of human rights violations, causing concerns among more-moderate Afghans about their participation in any future government.

The U.S. military has some 12,000 troops in Afghanistan, mostly serving in training and advisory roles, but President Donald Trump has indicated a desire to reduce U.S. involvement in foreign conflicts and withdraw American forces.

Khalilzad has held several rounds of peace talks with the Taliban in Qatar, but the Western-backed government in Kabul has been absent from the negotiations, with the militant group insisting it will not engage with a Western 'puppet.'

RFE/RL

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