Tuesday, June 18, 2013

US to open direct Taliban talks

18 June 2013 Last updated at 10:59 ET

US to open direct Taliban talks

US troops outside Kabul. 18 June 2013US-led troops have now handed over security nationwide to Afghan forces

The US is to open direct peace talks with the Taliban, senior White House officials have announced.

The first meeting is due to take place in the coming days in Doha, Qatar, where the Taliban have just opened their first official overseas office.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said his government is also sending a delegation to Qatar to talk to the Taliban.

The announcement came on the day Nato handed over security for the whole of Afghanistan to government forces.

US officials said prisoner exchanges would be one topic for discussion with the Taliban, but the first weeks will mainly be used to explore each other's agendas.

However, the talks are on condition that the Taliban renounce violence, break ties with al-Qaeda and respect the Afghan constitution - including the rights of women and minorities.

US officials said this was the first step on a very long road, adding that there was no guarantee of success.

Although senior US officials describe the latest move as a milestone on the road to peace, others will feel it is nearer to treason, says BBC North America Editor Mark Mardell.

'Puppets of the US'

On Tuesday, the Taliban issued a statement saying that one of the main aims of their Doha office was "to meet Afghans".

The statement said they would also make contact with UN, regional and international organisations as well as non-governmental institutions.

After opening the "political bureau" in Doha alongside Qatari officials, Taliban representative Mohammed Naeem told reporters the group wanted good relations with Afghanistan's neighbouring countries.

In the past, the Taliban have always refused to meet President Karzai or his government, dismissing them as puppets of the US.


President Hamid Karzai: "For the people of Afghanistan this is a great day"

In Afghanistan itself on Tuesday, Nato handed over security for the whole of the country to the government for the first time since the Taliban were ousted in 2001.

At a ceremony in Kabul, President Hamid Karzai said that from Wednesday "our own security and military forces will lead all the security activities".

The ceremony saw the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) hand over control of the last 95 districts in a transition process that began in 2011.

International troops are to remain in Afghanistan until the end of 2014, providing military back-up when needed.

President Karzai has expressed anger at previous US and Qatari efforts to kick-start the peace process without properly consulting his government, reports the BBC's Bilal Sarwary from Kabul.

There is also concern within the presidential palace that the Taliban will use the office in Qatar to raise funds, adds our correspondent.

The US has previously tried to negotiate with the Taliban, but never held direct talks.

In March 2012 the Taliban said it had suspended preliminary negotiations with Washington, citing US efforts to involve the Afghan government as a key stumbling block.

The Taliban set up a diplomatic presence in Qatar in January 2012 and US officials held preliminary discussions there.


No comments:

Post a Comment