KABUL, March 13 (Xinhua) -- The peace talks between United States and Afghan Taliban has made progress after 16-day tough negotiations in Qatar's capital Doha and conditions for achieving peaceful settlement have improved, U.S. special envoy for Afghan peace Zalmay Khalilzad has said in a statement posted on his Twitter account.
"I just finished a marathon round of talks with the Taliban in Doha. The conditions for peace have improved. It is clear all sides want to end the war. Despite ups and downs, we kept things on track and made real strides," Khalilzad said in the statement.
The U.S. envoy made the comments late on Tuesday hours after ending the fifth round of talks with Taliban negotiators after 16 days hard discussions that led the two sides on agreeing in draft on counter-terrorism assurances and foreign forces withdrawal.
"Peace requires agreement on four issues: counter-terrorism assurances, troop withdrawal, intra-Afghan dialogue, and a comprehensive ceasefire. In January talks, we agreed in principle on these four elements. We're now 'agreed in draft' on the first two," Khalilzad said.
When the agreement in draft about a withdrawal timeline and effective counterterrorism measures are finalized, the Taliban and other Afghan players including the government, will begin intra-Afghan negotiations on a political settlement and comprehensive ceasefire, he noted.
"My next step is discussions in Washington and consultations with other partners. We will meet again soon, and there is no final agreement until everything is agreed," Khalilzad said.
The Afghan government has also welcomed the recent political negotiations while the Taliban also backed the talks in a statement.
"We welcome U.S. efforts in Afghan peace process. We hope to witness a long term comprehensive ceasefire with the Taliban, and hope that direct negotiations of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban begin soon," Haroon Chakhansuri, chief presidential spokesperson, tweeted.
However, a Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said that the insurgent group did not agree on any ceasefire or meeting with the Afghan government.
"It should be mentioned that no agreement has been reached regarding a ceasefire and talks with the Kabul administration, nor were other issues made a part of the current agenda. Reports by some media outlets in this regard are baseless," Mujahid said in the statement.
"Progress was achieved in Doha talks. For now, both sides will brief their leaders about the achieved progress, share it with their respective leaderships and prepare for the upcoming meeting, the date of which shall be set by both negotiating teams," Mujahid said.
"There have been international and regional consensus on Afghan peace now but the latest progress in the peace talks in Qatar would soon led to a ceasefire and lasting peace in Afghanistan," political expert Bilal Niazi told local media Tolo News TV.
Niazi has welcomed the Afghan government's plan to hold a Peace Consultative Loya Jirga or traditional gathering of elders and chieftains, saying the Jirga will also led to inter-Afghan consensus and will ensure the current peace effort would be fruitful.
"All sides involved in the war in Afghanistan now want peace and Afghans will soon witness a long-lasting peace in near future," he said.
The latest development in the political negotiations came as more than 50 Afghan government troops and scores of Taliban militants have been killed in clashes across the country over the past couple of days.