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UN chief urges direct talks between Afghan government, Taliban

Migration and UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guterres briefed the international media in Geneva August 3, 2012 after returning from a joint trip to Burkina Faso to review the situation of Malian refugees. (Eric Bridiers/U.S. Mission Geneva)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for immediate talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, saying peace can only be reached through “comprehensive intra-Afghan dialogue.”

In a report to the Security Council circulated on March 7, Guterres said current developments represented “perhaps the most significant chance” to reach an end to the country’s 17-year war.

He added that “a sustainable peace agreement can be reached only through comprehensive intra-Afghan dialogue.”

“I call for the beginning of immediate, direct, and substantive talks, towards the hope of ending this conflict and its unacceptable toll in lives,” he said.

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He cited progress reported in talks between U.S. officials and the Taliban in Qatar and expressed hopes they will lead to direct talks between Kabul and the militant group.

The Taliban has so far refused to negotiate directly with the Afghan government, demanding that foreign troops first be withdrawn.

The United States invaded Afghanistan in late 2001 after the Taliban-led government protected Al-Qaeda terrorists and Osama bin Laden, who organized the September 11, 2001, terror attacks in the United States that killed nearly 3,000 people.

The Taliban was driven from power but has stepped up its efforts to overthrow the government in Kabul in recent years.