The Afghan government, Western diplomats and United Nations officials have in recent weeks raised hopes of finally reaching a deal to end the Taliban’s 17-year insurgency.

Such optimism has been tempered by continuing attacks, including a massive blast outside a British security company’s compound in Kabul late Wednesday  claimed by the Taliban  which killed at least 10 people.

The latest violence came just hours after Ghani told an international conference in Geneva that his government had formed a 12-person negotiating team, comprised of both men and women, to talk peace with the Taliban.

It will be led Ghani’s chief of staff, Abdul Salam Rahimi, a former humanitarian worker and ex-deputy Afghan finance minister who is considered one of the president’s closest aides.

US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who met with the Taliban in Qatar earlier this month, had been pushing Ghani to announce a negotiating team.

The president also laid out what he termed a “roadmap” for the talks and four principles that he said must form the backbone of any agreement.

They include respecting Afghanistan’s constitution and the total rejection of interference in domestic affairs by foreign “terrorist” and criminal groups.

“We seek a peace agreement in which the Afghan Taliban would be included in a democratic and inclusive society,” Ghani said.

Addressing media at the end of the conference that saw major donors pledge sustained commitment to the Kabul government, Afghanistan’s national security advisor Hamdullah Mohib said Wednesday’s bomb blast would not deter from the peace push.