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US-Taliban Deal is First Step to Afghanistan Peace Process, Says EU

Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani shakes hands with US Defense Secretary Mark Esper, during a news conference in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Reuters)

Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani shakes hands with US Defense Secretary Mark Esper, during a news conference in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Reuters)

The signing of the US-Taliban accord in the Qatari capital Doha is historic, opening the way to a withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan in return for Taliban security guarantees.

Brussels: The European Union said Saturday a landmark deal between the US and the Taliban, and a separate US-Afghanistan declaration, are "important first steps towards a comprehensive peace process" in Afghanistan.

The EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement that "the current opportunity to move towards peace should not be missed" and the bloc expected "Afghan-owned and Afghan-led negotiations to start without delay in an inclusive manner and aiming at a lasting peace".

The signing of the US-Taliban accord in the Qatari capital Doha is historic, opening the way to a withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan in return for Taliban security guarantees.

There are hopes it will put an end to nearly two decades of conflict in Afghanistan, where US-led forces have propped up the government in Kabul in the face of an unceasing Taliban insurgency.

To achieve peace, though, the accord will have to lead to intra-Afghan talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

The Afghan government was not directly involved in the negotiations resulting in Saturday's deal signed in Doha. But US Defense Secretary Mark Esper was in Kabul to make a joint declaration with the government.

Borrell said the EU stood ready to help with an Afghan peace process in which "all political factions, where notably Afghan women and minorities as well as the civil society, are represented in a meaningful manner".

He added: "It is vital that all people of Afghanistan feel represented in the next government and in peace negotiations. This would help address grievances, including in the context of the recent electoral process, and promote reconciliation."

first published:February 29, 2020, 19:55 IST