Taliban, Afghan officials end peace talks agreeing to meet again

Taliban, Afghan officials end peace talks agreeing to meet again

Taliban, Afghan officials end peace talks agreeing to meet again

In this Sunday, July 31, 2011 file photo, Taliban fighters hold their heavy and light weapons before surrendering them to Afghan authorities in Jalalabad, east of Kabul, Afghanistan. AP Photo

The first officially acknowledged peace talks between the Afghan Taliban and the government in Kabul concluded with an agreement to meet again after the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, Pakistan said on July 8.

Pakistan hosted the meeting in a tentative step towards ending more than 13 years of war in Afghanistan, in which the Taliban have been fighting the government in hopes of re-establishing their hard-line Islamist regime that was toppled by the U.S.-sponsored military intervention in 2001. 

Officials from the United States and China were observers in the first official talks held on July 6 at Murree, a hill resort on the outskirts of Islamabad, a statement from Pakistan's foreign ministry said. 

"The participants agreed to continue talks to create an environment conducive for peace and the reconciliation process," the statement said. 

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who has pushed for the peace process and has encouraged closer ties with neighbouring Pakistan in a bid to achieve this goal, first announced the talks on July 6. 

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif described the talks  as a "breakthrough", adding: "This process has to succeed." 

Sharif cautioned in remarks released by his office that the effort would be difficult and said Afghanistan's neighbours and the international community should make sure "that nobody tries to derail this process". 

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the United States welcomed the talks, calling them "an important step toward advancing prospects for a credible peace". 

In the past several months, there have been informal preliminary talks between Taliban representatives and Afghan figures, but the July 7 talks were the first official meetings. 

The Taliban's official spokesman has in the past disavowed the tentative peace process, saying those meeting with Afghanistan's government were not authorised to do so.