WASHINTON - The US envoy negotiating with the Taliban will hold new round of talks this month with the group in Qatar, the State Department has said.

Zalmay Khalilzad left on Friday on a 17-day trip that will take him to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Germany, Belgium and the United Arab Emirates, the State Department said on Saturday.

Zalmay Khalilzad will arrive in Pakistan today (Sunday). He will attend Pakistan-US consultative meeting so that efforts for peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan could be stepped up.

US-Pak bilateral consultative session will take place at Foreign Office. The US delegation will also meet senior civil and military authorities. However Zalmay Khalilzad’s meeting with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has not been set. However US authorities are active in arranging meeting with the prime minister.

In Doha, Zalmay Khalilzad will resume talks with the Taliban after a break of around a month “to move the peace process forward”, the State Department said in its statement.

Zalmay due in Islamabad today for consultations on Afghan peace process

Khalilzad has already met six times with the Taliban in recent months as he looks to seal a deal under which the United States will pull out troops who were first deployed following the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The US and Taliban are believed to have largely agreed on the key demand of Washington: that the Taliban should not allow Afghanistan to be used by armed groups. But a major sticking point remains the refusal of the Taliban to negotiate with President Ashraf Ghani’s government, which enjoys international support while the Taliban consider it a “puppet” of the West.

The Taliban, believing they have leverage on the military front, have also rejected Ghani’s overtures for a nationwide ceasefire.

“No one should expect us to pour cold water on the heated battlefronts of jihad or forget our 40-year sacrifices before reaching our objectives,” Taliban chief Haibatullah Akhunzada said in a rare message released on Saturday.

He pledged to continue fighting until the movement’s objectives were reached and indicated it was still not ready to open talks with the Western-backed government in Kabul.

In his annual message ahead of next week’s Eidul Fitr, Haibatullah sought to reassure Afghans that the Taliban wanted an end to decades of conflict and a government that represented all Afghans. But he offered little sign of agreeing to a ceasefire or of opening direct negotiations with the Kabul government, which the Taliban regard as an illegitimate foreign-imposed regime. He also gave no sign the Taliban would repeat last year’s truce over the three-day Eid holiday that ends Ramazan, which led to unprecedented scenes of Taliban fighters and government soldiers mingling and even embracing in the streets of Kabul.

About 17,000 foreign troops, including a contingent of some 14,000 US soldiers, are based in Afghanistan as part of a US-led NATO mission to train, assist and advise Afghan forces. Some US forces also carry out “counterterrorism” operations.

The US has said it will not agree to any withdrawal of troops as part of an eventual peace deal until the Taliban put in place security guarantees, implement a ceasefire and sign off on other commitments including an “intra-Afghan” dialogue with the Kabul government and other Afghan representatives. But the Taliban insist they will not do any of these things until the US announces a troop withdrawal timeline.

In Kabul, Khalilzad will meet representatives of civil society and women’s rights groups, which have been especially concerned about a larger role for the Taliban.

Khalilzad will “encourage all parties to work towards intra-Afghan negotiations that lead to a final peace settlement,” the State Department said.

Germany, another of Khalilzad’s stops, has voiced willingness to hold a meeting on peace in Afghanistan.