US to begin direct peace talks with Taliban 'within days'
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Senior US officials said on Tuesday that they will enter peace talks with the Taliban at a new office in Doha "within the coming days", in what may be a significant step towards an end to the long-running war.
Senior US officials said on Tuesday that representatives will begin formal talks with the Taliban "within a few" days at a new office in Doha, Qatar.
The Afghan Taliban opened the office to help restart talks on ending the 12-year-old war, saying it wanted a political solution that would bring about a just government and end foreign occupation.
Senior Barack Obama administration officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak on the record, described the office opening to AP as a stepping stone to full Taliban renouncement of al Qaeda.
Karzai also on the cards
The officials said the US and Taliban representatives will hold bilateral meetings, then it is expected that Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s High Peace Council will follow up with its own talks a few days later.
A senior Afghan official told Reuters that talks with the High Peace Council would go ahead.
“The peace talks will certainly take place between the Taliban and the High Peace Council,” said the senior official, referring to the body created by Karzai in 2010 to broker peace with the insurgency.
Taliban representative Mohammed Naeem held a news conference from the group’s new office on Tuesday, telling reporters that the Islamist insurgency wanted good relations with Afghanistan’s neighbouring countries. The conference was broadcast live on Qatar’s al Jazeera television channel.
The Taliban had previously said that they would not countenance peace talks with the Karzai government, which they consider a stooge of the United States and other Western nations.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)