ISLAMABAD — The Taliban said Wednesday they are not seeking a “monopoly on power” in a future administration in Afghanistan but are looking for ways to coexist with Afghan institutions – the most conciliatory statement to date from the militants.

The Taliban, who now control almost half the country and carry out near-daily attacks mainly targeting Afghan security forces, issued the statement amid intensified U.S.-led talks to resolve the long-running Afghanistan War. U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad reported this week that there had been “agreements in principle” toward a framework for peace with the Taliban.

The statement Wednesday by Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen appears aimed at easing fears among those worried about any agreement that includes the Taliban. Its unusually conciliatory tone also could offer Khalilzad greater leverage as he seeks to rally Afghanistan’s leadership behind his peace efforts.

In an exclusive audio message to The Associated Press, Shaheen asserted that the Taliban want to live alongside their countrymen “in an inclusive Afghan world.”

“After the end of the occupation, Afghans should forget their past and tolerate one another and start life like brothers. After the withdrawal, we are not seeking a monopoly on power,” said Shaheen, who is based in Qatar, where the Taliban have a political office.

Khalilzad, the U.S. envoy, has been pressing the Kabul government to cobble together a strong negotiation team, but divisions within the country’s so-called Unity Government and criticism from warlords-turned-politicians seeking greater involvement, have hurt progress.

Khalilzad has urged President Ashraf Ghani to put together a team that has wide representation in order to ensure that what he calls a “framework for the future” would include rights for women, the rule of law and press freedom.

The Taliban have so far refused to negotiate directly with the Kabul government, which the insurgents often refer to as puppets of the U.S. Khalilzad has been pressing the Taliban into direct talks while focusing his discussions with the group on ensuring Afghanistan does not once again become a safe haven for terrorists.

Shaheen said another round of talks with the U.S. envoy is planned for Feb. 25 in Doha.

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