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U.S. sees hope for wider Afghan peace in release of two hostages

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States welcomed the release on Tuesday of two U.S. and Australian men held by the Afghan Taliban and said the gesture, a recent decline in violence, and other developments gave it hope that intra-Afghan peace talks could succeed.

“The Taliban have indicated that the release of the two professors is intended as a goodwill gesture, which the United States welcomes,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement about the release of U.S. citizen Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks, who were kidnapped in August 2016.

“We see these developments as hopeful signs that the Afghan war, a terrible and costly conflict that has lasted 40 years, may soon conclude through a political settlement.”

Reporting By Arshad Mohammed and Lisa Lambert, Editing by Franklin Paul