KABUL, Afghanistan 

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin visited Kabul on Sunday to meet Afghan President Ashraf Ghani ahead of a key international peace conference on Afghanistan in Turkey.

The Afghan president and US defense secretary agreed that enduring and just peace is the main solution for the current situation in Afghanistan, said Ghani’s office following the meeting during this unannounced trip. It said both sides expressed their concerns over the increased violence in the country.

On his maiden trip to Afghanistan upon taking charge, the US defense secretary assured Kabul of Washington’s support, said the statement.

“I’m very grateful for my time with President @ashrafghani today. I came to Afghanistan to listen and learn. This visit has been very helpful for me, and it will inform my participation in the review we are undergoing here with @POTUS,” he tweeted.

Earlier this week, Russia, the US, China, and Pakistan — the expanded troika on the Afghan settlement — called on the Taliban to abandon plans for a spring offensive following a conference on Thursday in Moscow for ending hostilities and moving towards a peaceful settlement in Afghanistan. A joint statement by the meeting’s participants urged all parties “to reduce the level of violence.”

Pressing the warring factions in Afghanistan to reach a negotiated political settlement, the Moscow conference endorsed last year’s UN Security Council Resolution 2513 that opposed the restoration of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

This came ahead of another key international peace conference on Afghanistan in Turkey. The Turkish Foreign Ministry has expressed its readiness to host the conference in April to help with the peaceful settlement of the conflict in Afghanistan.

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