The United Nation’s top official to Afghanistan has called for direct talks between the Afghanistan Government and the Taliban to commence as soon as possible – referring to it as an imperative.

Special Representative Tadamichi Yamamoto was addressing the Security Council on developments in the war-torn country in the same week that United States President Donald Trump declared peace talks between the United States and the Taliban “dead” after abruptly announcing on twitter that an invitation for them to attend a secret summit at the Presidential retreat of Camp David had been canceled.

The push for peace with the Taliban comes after 18 years of war – the longest length for US combat forces engaged in battle, surpassing even the Vietnam War.

Tamamoto says:  “It is imperative therefore that direct talks between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban commence as soon as possible. Many efforts have been made for this purpose working with Afghan parties. Those efforts have created an opportunity where the beginning of direct talks between the two Afghan parties seems to have come within reach. Yet, often, the period just before coming to an agreement is the most difficult phase. All those who are concerned with peace efforts, above all the parties to the conflict, need to continue to work to bring about direct talks. I call on the parties to continue to seize opportunity of direct talks so that a peaceful future could be built.”

But an escalation in Taliban attacks – including a bomb in the Afghan capital last month in which 63 people were killed  – is undermining efforts towards a peace deal.

Afghan’s are expected to go to the polls on September 28th in their fourth presidential election since 2001 amidst serious security concerns and according to the UN, the possibility of fraud and other irregularities.

Tamamoto says the deliberate targeting of civilians is a matter of grave concern.

“Efforts for peace should be accompanied by a reduction in violence; yet, violence has intensified in recent days. Recent attacks by insurgents in Kunduz, Baghlan, and Farah, and above all multiple attacks in Kabul are of serious concern. Trying to obtain the position of strength in negotiation cannot be an excuse for the escalation. The parties to the conflict must reduce violence and civilian casualties to demonstrate their seriousness for peace.”

This after the United States President Donald Trump announced that ongoing talks with the Taliban– set to culminate with a secret meeting at Camp David- was now off due to continued attacks in Afghanistan that claimed two US military personnel among the fatalities.

“They’re dead. They’re dead. As far as I am concerned, they’re dead. They thought that they had to kill people in order to put themselves in a little better negotiating position. When they did that, they killed 12 people. One happened to be a great American soldier, a wonderful young man from Puerto Rico. The family is from Puerto Rico, and you can’t do that. You can’t do that with me. So, they’re dead as far as I am concerned.”

The Afghan Government says any peace deal must preserve the gains in strengthening the Republic and the constitutional rights of women.

Their country’s Ambassador Adela Raz says: “The people of Afghanistan have also stressed that a  real and genuine pledge to peace by the Taliban should be manifested in ending violence as well as an engagement in direct peace talks with the Afghan Government. The Government of Afghanistan has always remained committed to peace talks, conducted on a set of common principles in accordance with the demand and expectation of all Afghans from across the country.”

President Trump is seeking to reduce the 14-thousand US troops in the country and the peace negotiations were seen as key to bringing such reductions into fruition. South Africa for its part told the Council that reaching a lasting peace can only be achieved through an Afghan-owned political process.