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Karzai ‘Willing to Join’ Taliban Peace Talks

DOHA, Jun 20 2013 - The Afghan government has signaled it might join talks with the Taliban a day after President Hamid Karzai said he would boycott any peace talks unless they were led by his government, a spokesman from his administration told the AP news agency.

Fayeq Wahidi said on Thursday that the Afghan president was willing to participate in the talks to be held in the Qatari capital, Doha, if the U.S. followed through with promises he said were made by Secretary of State John Kerry in a phone call to Karzai.
The talks were thrown into disarray when Karzai cancelled a planned delegation to the newly opened Taliban office in Doha because he said the U.S. broke commitments that the office would not be seen as an embassy or government-in-exile.

“As long as the peace process is not Afghan-led, the High Peace Council will not participate in the talks in Qatar,” he said in a statement on Wednesday, referring to a body he set up in 2010 to seek a negotiated peace with the Taliban.

Wahidi said Kerry promised that the Taliban flag and a nameplate with the name of their former regime would be removed and said the U.S. would issue a formal letter supporting the Afghan government.

“We would see no problem in entering into talks with the Taliban in Qatar” once that happens, Wahidi said.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Wednesday that the U.S. did “not recognise the name Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.”

She said Kerry had made that clear in two phone calls to Karzai in the past 24 hours.

Kerry also “noted that the government of Qatar has taken steps today to ensure that the political office is in compliance with the conditions established by the government of Qatar for its operations,” Psaki said.

Peaceful solution

Karzai also broke off ongoing Afghan-U.S. talks on an agreement to allow the U.S. to maintain soldiers in Afghanistan after a NATO combat mission ends next year over what it called the United States’ “inconsistent statement and action” over the peace process.

The developments came one day after the U.S. announced it would engage in direct negotiations with the Afghan-based armed group.

But the State Department later said the U.S. had “never confirmed” any specific meeting between U.S. officials and the Taliban in Doha.

“We are now in consultations with the Afghan leadership and the High Peace Council on how to move forward,” Psaki said.

Against this backdrop of diplomatic controversy, Mohammad Sohail Shaheen, a member of the Taliban’s Doha office, insisted on Wednesday that the only purpose of the office was to find lasting peace in Afghanistan.

“This office was opened in order to bring about peace and to find a peaceful solution… which is the main thing and all parties should try to make that happen,” he told Al Jazeera.

Shaheen stressed that no one should try and disrupt the peace process “as we see (now happening) from the Kabul administration.”

“We enter this with good intentions and seek a peaceful solution to the Afghan issues,” he said, “and we want all sides to have the same intention.”

Al Jazeera’s James Bays, reporting from Doha, said “talks will probably go ahead in the coming days,” but added that significant challenges needed to be faced between the U.S. and Afghanistan on the nature of the talks.

“(The Taliban) are going to be, in some form, part of the future of Afghanistan. What I think the Americans and the other Western allies are trying to do is get that negotiated settlement with the Taliban, rather than the alternative, which is that when most of the (foreign) troops pull out some sort of civil war takes place – that is what they are trying to avoid,” he said.

*Published under an agreement with Al Jazeera.

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