Afghan govt, Taliban agree to accelerate peace talks after Moscow summit
An international conference on Afghanistan is held in Moscow, Russia, March 18, 2021. /Getty

An international conference on Afghanistan is held in Moscow, Russia, March 18, 2021. /Getty

The Afghan government and the Taliban have agreed to accelerate peace talks after Russia hosted an international conference aimed at reviving a stalled peace process, the RIA news agency reported on Friday, citing a senior Afghan official. 

The move comes after Russia, China, the United States and Pakistan called on Afghanistan's warring sides to reach an immediate ceasefire. 

The four countries signed a joint statement in Moscow on Thursday, calling on all parties in the conflict in Afghanistan to reduce the level of violence, and urged the Taliban not to pursue a spring offensive. 

The statement was released by the Russian Foreign Ministry after a regular meeting of the four countries, or the extended "Troika," with the participation of representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban. 

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In the 10-point statement, Russia, China, the U.S. and Pakistan asked all Afghans to ensure that terrorist groups and individuals do not use Afghan soil to threaten the security of any other country. 
The four countries called on participants in the intra-Afghan negotiations to engage immediately in discussions on fundamental issues to resolve the conflict. 
"At this pivotal moment, our four states call on the parties to negotiate and conclude a peace agreement that will bring an end to over four decades of war in Afghanistan," the statement read. 

The conference is part of intensifying negotiations between the Afghan government, the Taliban and the United States to negotiate Washington's exit nearly 20 years after U.S. troops invaded the country in response to the September 11 attacks. 

The U.S. is supposed to complete a withdrawal of its military from Afghanistan by May 1 as part of a deal with the Taliban – a deadline U.S. President Joe Biden said Wednesday would be "tough" to meet.

China has repeatedly called for a broad and inclusive peace and reconciliation process that is Afghan-led and Afghan-owned. 

(With input from agencies)

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