KABUL - A top Afghan official appointed to lead the much-awaited peace talks with the Taliban said on Saturday that his team was ready to start dialogue with the insurgents "at any moment".

Abdullah Abdullah, who heads a council to represent the government in negotiations, said that an ongoing lull in violence triggered by a surprise ceasefire offered by the insurgents had set the tone for launching discussions.

"The announcement of the ceasefire, a reduction in violence and the exchange of prisoners have all paved the way for a good beginning to startfresh negotiations," Abdullah said at his first press conference since taking on the role. "The negotiating team is ready to begin the talks at any moment," he said.

However, he insisted on a fresh ceasefire during the talks.  The Taliban offered a rare three-day ceasefire that ended on Tuesday night to mark the Eid al-Fitr festival.