Girlfriend continues to talk to ex-boyfriend.

I know this has been covered before, but I have a little twist on the situation. I have been dating a girl for about 18 months. Things are great except that she continues to talk to her ex...frequently (like once a week on average, sometimes more). She was up front about this at the beginning and said that they are still really good friends and really close. She broke up with him after they dated for 2 years. I tried to accept the situation for what she said it was, however, I learned more later. Several of her friends have made comments that her ex wants to get back together with her more than anything in the world. Whenever she goes back to her home town, they get together to meet up and hang out. Recently, I have started to visit her home town with her...so I offered to have the three of us hang out together. I have made this offer several times only to have this other guy decline saying it would be "too awkward". The ex's new girlfriend even broke up with him over the situation, after he said that his "friendship" with my current girlfriend was "more important to him". The bottom line is, I'm convinced he still loves her and wants her back. I've even heard about him saying negative things about me during their phone conversations. I told my girlfriend that I wasn't okay with her carrying on this "friendship" when one of them still has feelings for the other...all she does is cry and say that she can't just drop a friend like that from her life. She has recently decreased the frequency of their phone conversations (which routinely last an hour or so) but it still feels so disrespectful to me. I have two questions...why is it so important for her to keep talking to him? How can I get her to understand my perspective? Help, I really love this girl and I would appreciate both male and female perspectives on this.
Updates:
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Just to clarify. I tried to be okay with the situation (and probably would have been) if all of us were able to hang out. Him thinking its "too weird for all of us to hang out" makes me feel like the whole situation is too weird.
Girlfriend continues to talk to ex-boyfriend.
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