Zalmay Khalilzad seeks peace deal in Taliban talks before Afghan elections

Zalmay Khalilzad seeks peace deal in Taliban talks before Afghan elections

Washington (Agencies): US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad said the United States is hoping Afghanistan can strike a peace agreement including the Taliban before the presidential elections scheduled for July.

He said this while addressing a gathering at the US Institute for Peace in Washington on Friday.

"It will be better for Afghanistan if we could get a peace agreement before the election, which is scheduled in July," Khalilzad said, adding that there remained "a lot of work" to do.

"We are after a peace agreement, not a withdrawal agreement. A peace agreement can allow withdrawal," Khalilzad said.

He added that "elections make the peace agreement more complicated".

Khalilzad, who held talks with Taliban representatives four times in the last four months, has expressed cautious optimism about the prospect of a deal, and even announced a draft framework, but stressed nothing had been finalized.

His remarks come days after Afghan politicians and Taliban representatives held talks on Afghan peace in Moscow which was described as "constructive" by some participants of the meeting.

The talks come as US President Donald Trump pushes to end the Afghan conflict, where about 14,000 US troops are still deployed and which has seen countless thousands of civilian and military deaths, as well as an infusion of more than $1 trillion in US cash into the country.

In his annual State of the Union speech on Tuesday, Trump said the time has come "to at least try for peace."