Afghan government and Taliban negotiators meet in Doha to discuss peace

FILE PHOTO: Officials attend the Afghan peace conference in Moscow
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KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan government and Taliban negotiators met in Qatar's capital Doha this week to discuss the peace process, the first known meeting in weeks after negotiations largely stalled earlier this year.

Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said in a statement on Twitter on Wednesday that the heads of both teams, along with some of their negotiators, had met the previous day in Doha.

"They discussed topics of the agenda, accelerating the Afghan negotiations process and reaching mutual understanding in this regard," he said.

The meeting was the first announced gathering of both sides since mid-May and after already-slowing talks largely broke off in April, when the United States announced it would withdraw its forces by September 11.

The Taliban had responded angrily to that announcement as it meant foreign forces would stay in the country beyond a May deadline agreed with the previous Trump administration. The Islamist group said it would boycott a major peace conference due to take place in Turkey.

Negotiators had started in Doha in September to find a way to end decades of war. But the talks stalled after a few rounds and violence has escalated since the United States started its final pullout of troops.

Finding common ground between the two warring sides has been a top priority for Western capitals, particularly Washington.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan said last week his country was pushing for a political settlement in Afghanistan before foreign troops leave, to reduce the risk of civil war in its western neighbour.

(Reporting by Kabul bureau; Editing by Gareth Jones)