Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, arrived in the Qatari capital, where he will discuss the opening of an office for the Taliban in the Gulf state for peace talks that could end more than a decade of war.
Shortly after arriving in Doha on Saturday, Karzai met with Afghan and Arab officials and businessmen. The delegation traveling with the Afghan president, including Zalmai Rassoul, foreign minister, Salahuddin Rabbani, head of the High Peace Council and Rangin Dadfar Spanta, presidential advisor, will meet with the Emir of Qatar on Sunday.
“We will discuss the peace process, of course, and the opening of an office for the Taliban in Qatar,” Aimal Faizi, presidential spokesman, told the AFP news agency on Saturday before Karzai left Kabul with several senior members of his government.
Until earlier this year, Karzai was strongly opposed to the group having a meeting venue outside Afghanistan, but the US wanted the Taliban on the talking table as it prepared to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan in the next two years.
“If we want to have talks to bring peace to Afghanistan, the main side must be the Afghan government’s representatives – the High Peace Council, which has members from all the country’s ethnic and political backgrounds,” Faizi said.
Kabul has repeatedly stressed that it would only start talks if the fighters broke all links with al-Qaeda and gave up violence.
Faizi said any Taliban office in Qatar must be held to strict conditions.
“It can only be an address where the armed opposition sit and talk to the Afghanistan government,” he said. “This office can not be used for any other purposes.”
The UN this week welcomed Karzai’s planned Qatar visit, and issued another call for the Taliban to come to the peace table.
“You are Afghans, you care, I assume, about your country, you care about [a] peaceful stable future of the country,” Jan Kubis, the UN envoy to Afghanistan, said.
But the Qatar office could mean little if the Taliban refuse to negotiate with Karzai or the government-appointed High Peace Council.
‘Not our concern’
The Taliban have refused to have direct contact with Karzai, saying he was a puppet of the United States, which has supported his rise to power after the military operation to oust the fighters in 2001.
“The opening of the Taliban office in Qatar is not related to Karzai, it is a matter between the Taliban and the Qatar government,” spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP.
“If Karzai visits, it is not our concern. Our representatives who are already in Qatar won’t see or talk to him.”
In Afghanistan, an air strike by a NATO helicopter has killed one child and several suspected Taliban fighters in the southeast.
The aircraft came to support Afghan troops who were attacked near the town of Ghazni. At least 13 people were wounded.
Source : Qatar Chronicle
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