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Taliban demands removal from blacklists to join peace talks

The militant group has said pre-conditions must be met before they join any talks aimed at ending their insurgency. The statement comes as Afghanistan boosts efforts to end the conflict amid an uptick of violence.

Afghanistan's Taliban militant group said on Sunday that its pre-conditions must be met before joining formal peace talks to end their 15-year insurgency in the wake of the 2001 US-led military invasion.

The demands include the release of political prisoners, their removal from international terror blacklists and the opening of its "political office" in Qatar.

"Before any officials talks, we want names of our mujahideen to be removed from UN and US blacklists and all bounties on their heads be cancelled," said Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid at a conference in Qatar.

"We also want our political office in Doha to be officially re-opened," Mujahid added.

Organized by the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, a Nobel peace prize-winning crisis group, the conference aimed at pushing parties to bring about an end to the conflict in Afghanistan.

It marked a rare direct interaction between representatives of the Taliban and Afghan lawmakers.

Peace process launched

On Monday, delegates from Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the US met in Kabul for a second meeting aimed at bolstering the peace process.

The push to formally launch the peace process comes as the militant group has ramped up its violent campaign, making significant gains in the Helmand province.

Earlier this week, Taliban militants targeted employees of the Tolo news channel - a Deutsche Welle media partner - killing seven people when a suicide bomber targeted their vehicle.

ls/jlw (Reuters, AFP, AP)