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US, Taliban officials to hold talks in Doha over weekend

 
Washington, Oct 9 (IANS) A US delegation will travel to Doha over the weekend to meet senior Afghan Taliban representatives, the State Department has announced.

It will be the first in-person meeting between the US and the Taliban since America's withdrawal from Afghanistan in August and the latter's takeover of the war-torn nation.

"This meeting is a continuation of the pragmatic engagements with the Taliban on issues of US vital national interest," Xinhua news agency quoted a Department spokesperson as saying to reporters on Friday night.

The spokesperson noted that it is "not about granting recognition or conferring legitimacy".

The key priorities of the meeting are "the continued safe passage out of Afghanistan of US and other foreign nationals and Afghans to whom we have a special commitment who seek to leave the country and holding the Taliban to its commitment not to allow terrorists to use Afghan soil to threaten the security of the US or its allies", according to the spokesperson.

US officials in the meeting will also press the Taliban to respect the rights of women and girls, form an inclusive government, and allow humanitarian agencies free access to areas of need, the official added.

According to media reports, the American delegation will include officials from the Central Intelligence Agency, the State Department, and the US Agency for International Development.

But US Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad, who has for years spearheaded Washington's dialogue with the Taliban in the Qatari capital and been a key figure in peace talks, will not be part of the delegation, TOLO News reported.

Meanwhile, Acting Foreign Minister Amirkhan Motaqi, who is leading the Afghan Taliban delegation comprising cabinet officials, left for Doha on Friday night.

--IANS
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