US special envoy hoping for peace deal with Taliban by April: report

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U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad reportedly said Sunday that he hopes a peace deal is reached with the Taliban in Afghanistan before an April 20 deadline. 

He said he is “cautiously optimistic” about the possibility of a peace settlement, saying that he would like to see a one “sooner rather than later,” The Associated Press reports.

“I am talking to all interested parties, all Afghan groups … and I think there is an opportunity for reconciliation and peace,” he added.

{mosads}Khalilzad had just completed three days of talks with the Taliban in Qatar, though he did not reference the talks explicitly in his statement, according to the AP.

“The Afghan government wants peace,” he said. “The Taliban are saying they do not believe they can succeed militarily, that they would like to see the problems that remain, resolved by peaceful means, by political negotiations.”

The news service reports that the U.S. appears to be focused on getting a settlement out of Afghanistan, where militants currently control nearly half of the land.

The Taliban has previously refused to negotiate with the Afghan government, which they view as a puppet regime, leading the U.S. to meet with the insurgents directly, it added.

Earlier this month, the Taliban demanded the lifting of sanctions against its leaders, the release of prisoners, and recognition of its office in Qatar. 

The Afghan government, however, is opposed to any recognition of the Qatar office, which the Taliban has framed as a government in exile in the past.

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