March 31 (UPI) -- A European Union delegation said Tuesday a decision by Afghan political leaders to form a negotiation team to meet with the Taliban is an "important step" in progressing key peace talks.
The EU delegation said Tuesday it agrees with its Heads of Mission team in Kabul that an inclusive negotiation team is a starting point for the talks, which were a key part of a U.S.-Taliban peace agreement last month. The talks are intended to settle long-running divisions between Kabul and the militant group.
"We offer our full support to the newly established team," the delegation said in a statement. "We encourage all political leaders to promote the effective participation of women, youth and victims."
One element that's been blamed for delaying progress is a dispute between Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and rival politician Abdullah Abdullah, who both claimed the presidency in elections last summer. Ghani was formally declared the winner, but officials have been concerned that continued resistance from Abdullah threatened to hamper the intra-Afghan talks.
EU officials also called on Taliban fighters Tuesday to quell ongoing violence in Afghanistan and commit to "meaningful discussions on a cease-fire." The European body said there's no longer a reason to delay the negotiations.
"The Taliban should respect and work constructively with the team put in place in Kabul as the government should work with the team of Taliban despite its lack of inclusivity," the delegation said.
Presidential spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said the Afghan government has made all the necessary commitments to negotiations, and there should be "no more excuses" in delaying further peace talks.
The dispute led U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week to announce a $1 billion cut in aid to Afghanistan. He threatened another $1 billion cut next year if the two sides fail to form a new government.