By Beyza Binnur Donmez
ANKARA (AA) - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday announced the U.S. and Taliban had reached an agreement to "reduce violence across Afghanistan," set to be signed on Feb. 29.
"After decades of conflict, we have come to an understanding with the Taliban on a significant reduction in violence across Afghanistan. This is an important step on a long road to peace, and I call on all Afghans to seize this opportunity," Pompeo said on Twitter.
Pompeo's announcement came onboard flight to Oman.
"The United States and the Taliban have been engaged in extensive talks to facilitate a political settlement to end the war in Afghanistan, reduce United States and Allied Forces presence, and ensure that no terrorist group ever uses Afghan soil to threaten the United States or our allies," the State Department said in a statement.
The initial deal gives the Taliban seven days, starting from Friday night, to refrain from all violence. If the condition is met, the U.S. and Taliban will move forward with a broader, permanent agreement.
The two parties reached an understanding of nationwide reduction in violence across Afghanistan after weeks of negotiations in Doha, it noted.
"Upon a successful implementation of this understanding, signing of the U.S.-Taliban agreement is expected to move forward. We are preparing for the signing to take place on February 29.
"Intra-Afghan negotiations will start soon thereafter, and will build on this fundamental step to deliver a comprehensive and permeant ceasefire and the future political roadmap for Afghanistan. The only way to achieve a sustainable peace in Afghanistan is for Afghans to come together and agree on the way forward," it added.
Last week, President Ashraf Ghani welcomed “notable progress” in talks between the U.S. and Taliban.
Sirajuddin Haqqani, the Taliban’s deputy head, had also confirmed in an op-ed published in The New York Times on Thursday that the group is about to sign an agreement with the U.S.
The Taliban has rejected the notion of holding direct peace talks with the Afghan government headed by Ghani, and has rebuffed the idea of a broader nationwide cease-fire.
The agreement that was nearly signed in September sets the timetable for the U.S. exit from Afghanistan in exchange for the Taliban vows to ensure Afghanistan does not become a hotbed for terrorist groups, and beginning of talks with Ghani’s government.
The U.S. has over 12,000 troops in Afghanistan conducting operations in support of Ghani’s forces, as well as conducting a broader anti-terror mission.