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Pompeo tells Afghan president Qatar talks with Taliban best chance for peace

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at the 2014 London Conference on Afghanistan, co-hosted by the governments of the UK and Afghanistan. (DFID - UK Department for International Development/Released)

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

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to express disappointment over the postponement of talks with the Taliban and to condemn the insurgent group’s recent announcement of a “spring offensive.”

Some 250 Afghan politicians and civil society figures had been due to meet with Taliban negotiators in Doha starting on April 19 for the so-called intra-Afghan dialogue. It would have marked the first time that Taliban and Kabul government officials sat together.

But the meetings were abruptly cancelled on April 18 amid disagreements about the size and composition of the Afghan delegation.

The State Department said in a statement that Pompeo called Ghani on April 21 and condemned the Taliban’s announcement of starting another offensive in the spring.

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Pompeo also said that the talks present an important opportunity to advance peace.

“The secretary encouraged all sides to seize the moment and reach an understanding on participants, so that an inclusive intra-Afghan dialogue can be convened in Doha as soon as possible,” the State Department said.

The United States has been holding separate bilateral peace negotiations with the Taliban in Doha as part of a months-long peace push.