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US talks to Taliban anew, picks up line to NoKor

Doha, Qatar—Washington resumed talks with the Taliban in Qatar Saturday, a US source said, three months after President Donald Trump abruptly halted diplomatic efforts that could end America’s longest war.

“The US rejoined talks today in Doha. The focus of discussion will be reduction of violence that leads to intra-Afghan negotiations and a ceasefire,” said the source briefed on efforts to end almost two decades of war in Afghanistan.

In September, the United States and the Taliban had appeared on the verge of signing a deal that would have seen Washington begin withdrawing thousands of troops in return for security guarantees.

It was also expected to pave the way towards direct talks between the Taliban and the government in Kabul and, ultimately, a possible peace agreement after more than 18 years of war.

But that same month, Trump abruptly called the year-long effort “dead” and withdrew an invitation to the insurgents to join secret talks at his US retreat at Camp David after the killing of an American soldier.

During a surprise visit to a US military base in Afghanistan last week, Trump said the Taliban “wants to make a deal.”

In another development, South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in and US President Donald Trump agreed during a phone conversation to maintain dialogue with the nuclear-armed North, Seoul said Saturday, with the two allies noting the situation had become “grave”. 

Denuclearisation negotiations have been at a standstill since a summit in Hanoi broke up in February and pressure is rising as an end-of-year deadline to offer concessions, set by Pyongyang for Washington, approaches.

The 30-minute talk was the first conversation between the US President and the South Korean leader since they met at the UN General Assembly in New York in September.

“The two leaders shared an assessment that the current situation on the Korean peninsula is grave,” said Ko Min-jung, the spokeswoman of the South’s presidential office.

“They agreed momentum for dialogue to achieve prompt results from denuclearisation negotiations should be continued,” she went on to say, adding that Trump had requested the call. 

The discussion came after a week in which exchanges between Trump and North Korea raised the prospect of a return to a war of words, culminating in Pyongyang’s threats to resume referring to the US president as a “dotard” and to take military action if the US military moves against it. 

The South Korean leader was instrumental in brokering the landmark summit between Trump and Kim in Singapore last year which produced only a vaguely worded pledge about denuclearisation.

Topics: United States , Taliban , North Korea , NoKor , Afghanistan
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