The United Nations and the European Union have joined the United States and five EU countries in reiterating their commitment to reaching a “sustainable peace agreement” that will end the 18-year war in Afghanistan.

Europe reiterated that it believes a sustainable peace can be achieved through dialogue and urged all parties, including the hardline leader of the Taliban, to take the steps needed to reduce the alarming levels of violence that continues to plague the country nearly two decades after the United States first launched military operations against the then-ruling Taliban and their Osama bin Laden-led Al-Qaeda allies in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York and Washington, DC.

The EU has committed to bolstering international support to the Afghan National Defence and Security forces, as well as other government institutions. Brussels also stated that it is willing to work with the democratically elected Afghan government, as well as more moderate nationalist elements within the Taliban, and other Afghan political civil society leaders “to reach a comprehensive and sustainable peace agreement”.

The statement by the European Union was released after the US Special Envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, met with representatives from the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, the EU, and UN during a two-day visit to Brussels.

All sides in the Afghan conflict were urged to “observe a cease-fire” for the duration of the upcoming “intra-Afghan negotiations” so that “a political road map for Afghanistan’s future” can be reached.

The statement reaffirmed that the Taliban and other Afghan groups must not let the country be a haven for “Al-Qaeda…or other international terrorist groups” and that the Taliban must cut ties with and not support them.

The EU has a relatively light footprint in Afghanistan, but Brussels has been active in calling for the Taliban to observe multiple ceasefires, while at the same time urging the radical Islamist group to put down their weapons in order to negotiate a peace settlement in good faith with the Afghan government of President Ashraf Ghani.

Several EU members have been major contributors to the international community’s attempts to rebuild and stabilise Afghanistan ever since the Taliban was forcibly deposed by NATO-led coalition forces in October 2001.