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Published: Monday, 4/1/2013

Afghan leader urges Qatar emir to allow Taliban to open office

Effort could help stem violence by Islamic fundamentalists

ASSOCIATED PRESS
An Afghan police officer offers evening prayers with Kabul, Afghanistan, in the background. Afghan President Hamid Karzai held talks Sunday with the emir of Qatar during a visit to discuss a Taliban presence in Qatar. An Afghan police officer offers evening prayers with Kabul, Afghanistan, in the background. Afghan President Hamid Karzai held talks Sunday with the emir of Qatar during a visit to discuss a Taliban presence in Qatar.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge

DOHA, Qatar — Afghan President Hamid Karzai met with the emir of Qatar in Doha Sunday to discuss the possible opening of a Taliban office in the Persian Gulf state.

The move could foster peace negotiations with the Islamic fundamentalist movement in a bid to stem violence as foreign combat forces prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

The Qatar News Agency said Mr. Karzai met with the emir, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, and other senior officials on Sunday. He also held talks with Qatar’s ambassador to Pakistan during a tour of an Islamic art museum in Doha.

Janan Mosazai, Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman, has said the talks would include the peace process and the opening of a Taliban office.

Mr. Karzai’s office said he also met with Qatari and Afghan businessmen living in Qatar on Saturday, the start of the two-day trip, to encourage investment in his struggling country.

Afghanistan has agreed the Taliban can open an office in the Gulf state if the group breaks all ties with al-Qaeda and renounces terrorism. Talks will be led by the High Peace Council, a group of influential Afghans that includes former Taliban.

“The position of the Afghan government for the Taliban to open an office in Qatar is very clear. They should stop their relations with al-Qaeda and terrorists and show their readiness for direct negotiations with the Afghan government,” Mr. Mosazai said.

Despite Mr. Karzai’s desire to hold talks with the Taliban, and Qatar’s agreement for them to open an office in Doha, the insurgents have not yet accepted the offer.

The Taliban have refused to speak directly with Mr. Karzai or his government, which they view as a puppet of foreign powers. They have said they will negotiate only with the United States, which has held secret talks with them in Qatar. But at Mr. Karzai’s insistence, the United States has sought to have the insurgents speak directly with his government.

Taliban representatives have had back-channel talks and private meetings with representatives from various countries. A senior U.S. official said recently that the Taliban are talking to representatives of more than 30 countries, and indirectly with the United States. The United States has said Afghan-led reconciliation is important for the stability of Afghanistan and the region.

“We continue to support the opening of an office in Doha, Qatar, to facilitate negotiations between the High Peace Council and the authorized representatives of the Taliban,” U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice recently told the U.N. Security Council.



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