MOSCOW -- Mediators in Moscow on Thursday (March 18) urged the Taliban not to launch a spring offensive, as international efforts for a peace deal intensify.
The United States, China, Pakistan and Russia appealed for a reduction in violence in Afghanistan and to the warring sides to prevent deaths in order to "create a favourable atmosphere for achieving a politico-diplomatic settlement".
"We call on all parties to the conflict in Afghanistan to reduce the level of violence in the country and the Taliban movement not to declare a spring-summer offensive campaign," they said in a joint statement.
The two sides should reach an agreement "as soon as possible" that would "bring an end to over four decades of war in Afghanistan", said the international mediators.
In a show of support for international efforts, Abdullah Abdullah, who heads the Afghan government's reconciliation council, said Kabul wanted to speed up negotiations.
He called for "the two sides to start their talks and discussions in a different atmosphere".
Negotiations have been ongoing in Doha, Qatar, for months, and the recent meeting in Moscow and the peace conference scheduled in Turkey for April are "complementary to the Afghanistan peace negotiations in Doha and not as a substitute to it", the Afghan Foreign Ministry said Monday.
Observers cast doubt on Russia's intentions for the recent meeting because while Moscow publicly claims it supports peace talks in Afghanistan, the Kremlin's true intentions are murky.
Past Taliban junkets to Russia have produced little more than photo opportunities for Taliban leaders.
Meanwhile urban centres in Afghanistan are in the grip of a bloody campaign in the form of attacks targeting politicians, civil servants, academics, rights activists and journalists.
A military helicopter that crashed in volatile Wardak province had been shot down, killing four crew and five members of the security forces, said President Ashraf Ghani Thursday.
He did not say who was responsible but warned "the perpetrators of the incident will be seriously punished".
The incident comes as the Afghan government battles a surge in violence across the country blamed on the Taliban.