Violence reduction pact in Afghanistan agreed

epa08223915 Afghan female Army soldiers participate in a military exercise in Gozara district of Herat, Afghanistan, 17 February 2020. The Taliban on 17 February said a peace agreement with the United States has been finalized and would be signed by the end of February in Doha. Since the end of the NATO combat mission in January 2015, the US maintains one contingent within the framework of the new allied mission of advising Afghan troops and another for 'anti-terrorist' operations. EPA-EFE/JALIL REZAYEE

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A seven-day “reduction in violence” between the US and the Afghan Taliban will begin on Saturday, officials say.

“This is an important step on a long road to peace,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday.

If successful, the two sides will then sign the first phase of a deal aimed at ending nearly two decades of conflict.

The agreement, scheduled to begin at midnight local time, comes after more than a year of talks between American and Afghan Taliban representatives.

Soon after Pompeo’s announcement, Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed the development and said both sides will invite senior representatives to take part in the peace deal “signing ceremony”.

The Taliban’s statement also said the signing of the peace deal would be followed by intra-Afghan talks with various political parties in the country.

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