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Afghan gov't, Taliban reach breakthrough deal on peace talks

Afghan gov't, Taliban reach breakthrough deal on peace talks
Afghan security officials patrol the districts of Arghandab and Maiwind after the Taliban intensified attacks in Kandahar, Afghanistan, on November 2. File Photo by Muhammad Sadiq/EPA-EFE

Dec. 2 (UPI) -- Negotiators for the Afghanistan government and Taliban insurgents have reached a breakthrough agreement on the rules and agenda for long-awaited peace talks, both sides said Wednesday.

The deal for the U.S.-brokered talks aimed at ending the 19-year Afghan conflict comes nearly three months after they began in Doha, Qatar.

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Kabul negotiator Nader Nadery announced in a tweet that two Intra-Afghan negotiation teams on Wednesday were "tasked to prepare the draft topics for the agenda" ahead of the talks.

"The current negotiations of both negotiation teams show that there is willingness among Afghans to reach a sustainable peace and both sides are committed to continue their sincere efforts to reach a sustainable peace in Afghanistan," he wrote.

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Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem said negotiators are moving ahead with drafting the agenda.

"The current talks between the delegations from the two sides indicate that there is a will for peace among Afghans," he told reporters in Doha.

U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad reacted with optimism.

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"I welcome the news from Doha that the two Afghan sides have reached a significant milestone: a three-page agreement codifying rules and procedures for their negotiations on a political road map and a comprehensive cease-fire," he tweeted.

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"The people of Afghanistan now expect rapid progress on a political road map and a cease-fire. We understand their desire and we support them."

Talks began in September following the transfer of six Taliban prisoners, who'd been held for killing French, Australian and U.S. citizens, to Qatar, where they were placed under house arrest. The move completed the final requirement for peace talks to start, set out by a deal the United States signed with the Taliban in February.

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Haggling over the ground rules and agenda, however, delayed progress.

Gradual U.S. troop withdrawal is also part of the deal, with the understanding that the resulting unity government cannot allow Afghanistan to become a base for future terror attacks.

Violence in Afghanistan has continued during the negotiations for peace.

At least 30 people were killed in a car bomb attack in Afghanistan's Ghazni Province on Sunday. The Afghan defense ministry said 70 Taliban fighters were killed in heavy attacks in Kandahar province on the same day.

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