July 9 (UPI) -- Taliban officials and Afghan government leaders, acting in an unofficial capacity, said Tuesday they've ended two days of meetings in Qatar with an eight-point road map for peace.
The two groups agreed to continue "all-inclusive Afghan negotiations" and said the country will be a "united" and "Islamic" one that sets aside "all ethnic differences." It also asks for an end to civilian casualties and the protection for women's rights in an "Islamic framework."
Though the agreement is nonbinding, it signals room for moves that could accelerate the end of the 18-year conflict.
Tuesday's progress follows weeks of negotiations between Taliban leaders and the United States, but no official representatives of the Afghan government -- a stipulation insisted upon by Taliban leaders. While the Taliban participated in the latest meetings with Afghan leaders individually, it still refuses to meet with the current government in its official capacity, dismissing it as a "puppet" of the United States.
Some fear the Taliban wants to move Afghanistan into Islamic Sharia law that dominated before the conflict began in late 2001. Some U.S. officials hope a peace agreement could be reached for Afghan's presidential elections on Sept. 28, possibly by the Sept. 1.
"Glad to see common understanding on difficult issues," female Afghan lawmaker Fawzia Koofi tweeted. "The conference itself was a success in pursuing peace agenda."
"The intra-Afghan Conference on Peace just concluded on a very positive note," Khalilzad tweeted. "I congratulate the participants -- Afghan society representatives across generations, senior government officials, Taliban -- for finding common ground.
"This dialogue gives hope for further progress to end the 40-year long war and the terrible suffering of the Afghan people."