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US denies talks planned with Taliban

State Department denies scheduled meeting hours after Afghan president threatened to boycott peace talks with Taliban.

Last Modified: 19 Jun 2013 20:16
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The Taliban opened a political office in the Qatari capital Doha on Tuesday [EPA]

The US has not scheduled talks with the Taliban, the State Department has said, after reports that discussions with the Afghan group could begin this week in the Qatari capital, Doha.

"Reports of a meeting scheduled are inaccurate," spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters on Wednesday, saying that Washington had "never confirmed" any specific meeting.

"We are now in consultations with the Afghan leadership and the High Peace Council on how to move forward."

Psaki confirmed that US special envoy James Dobbins had not left Washington on Tuesday as planned for the talks.

"Right now, Ambassador Dobbins is in Washington. I don't have any planned travel for you to announce," she said.

The comments come one day after the US announced it would engage in direct negotiations with the Taliban as the armed group’s political wing opened an office in the Qatari capital.

Earlier on Wednesday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai had said he would boycott any talks unless they were led by his government.

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

US-Afghan talks suspended

Afghans sceptical over peace talks with Taliban

The Afghan president, who has headed the US-backed Afghan government since the US-led invasion in the wake of the September 11 attacks brought down the Taliban, opposes bilateral US-Taliban talks.

And on Wednesday he broke off separate ongoing Afghan-US talks on an agreement to allow Washington to maintain soldiers in Afghanistan after a NATO combat mission ends next year over what it called the US' "inconsistent statement and action" over the peace process.

The row centered on the Taliban office calling itself the "Islamic Emirate Of Afghanistan" - the formal name of its 1996-2001 government - and portraying itself as a state in exile, officials said.

Psaki insisted that "we do not recognise the name Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan," adding that US Secretary of State John Kerry had made that clear in two phone calls in the past 24 hours with Karzai.

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".

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Source:
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