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UPDATE - De-escalation deal with Taliban on Feb. 29: Pompeo

UPDATE - De-escalation deal with Taliban on Feb. 29: Pompeo
Deal gives Taliban 7 days, starting from Friday night, to refrain from all violence, before permanent agreement

UPDATES WITH REMARKS OF SPOKESMEN OF TALIBAN, SECURITY COUNCIL; CHANGES BY-LINE; EDITS THROUGHOUT

By Beyza Binnur Donmez and Shadi Khan Saif

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.

"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," Pompeo said in a statement by the State Department.

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, he 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," Pompeo added.

Pompeo's announcement came onboard flight to Oman.

"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," he also tweeted.

Zabihullah Mujahed, the Taliban spokesman, also said in a statement that following lengthy negotiations, the parties had agreed to sign the finalized accord in the presence of international observers on Feb. 29, 2019.

"Both parties will now create a suitable security situation in advance of agreement signing date, extend invitations to senior representatives of numerous countries and organizations to participate in the signing ceremony, make arrangements for the release of prisoners, structure a path for intra-Afghan negotiations with various political parties of the country and finally lay the groundwork for peace across the country with the withdrawal of all foreign forces and not allowing the land of Afghanistan to be used against security of others so that our people can live a peaceful and prosperous life under the shade of an Islamic system," read the statement.

Javed Faisel, spokesman for the National Security Council, has confirmed that a week-long reduction in violence would come into effect among warring sides from Friday midnight on.

A day earlier, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani met with Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S.’ top peace negotiator in the capital Kabul, to discuss details about the proposed "reduction of violence" agreement for peace in the country.

Ghani told Khalilzad that the success of peace process should mean all segments of the society -- including women, children and youth who have suffered from the war -- see peace in the country, according to the statement by the presidency.

Last week, 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.

source: News Feed
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