He said there was no confirmation from the delegates that "they will come back".

"But if they did, then there is potential for some real progress to be made.

"If nobody comes back, or if some key people don't come back, then that's quite clear that whatever has been discussed has gone back to their relevant power bases, and that those groups or parties are not willing to continue down this pass any further."

Factions present

Hezbi-e-Islami, Jamaat Islami and Jumbesh Islami were among the Afghan factions whose representatives attended the talks.

The Taliban issued a statement saying it had nothing to do with the talks and that those in attendance were no longer part of it.

In depth

  Video: Afghans talk peace in the Maldives
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  Video: Taliban fighter says Nato losing Afghan support
  Focus: Afghanistan's governance problem
  Focus: Making room for the Taliban
  Focus: To win over Afghans, US must listen
  Timeline: Afghanistan in crisis

The meeting was organised by Jarir Hekmatyar, the son-in-law of Gulbudin Hekmatyar, an Afghan regional commander and leader of the Hezb-e-Islami party.

Gulbudin Hekmatyar is considered to be one of Afghanistan's most wanted men and only sent his son, Feroz, to represent him.

Mohammed Nasheed, the Maldivian president, said in a statement the meeting had helped bolster peace interest in the region.

"Afghanistan's stability affects the peace and security of our region," Nasheed's press secretary said.

"The government of Maldives supports efforts to bring a resolution to the conflict in Afghanistan."

The meeting is the second such gathering held in the Maldives and it comes before of a grand assembly, or jirga, of Afghan tribal and community leaders, called by President Hamid Karzai scheduled for the end of May.

Thousands of people are expected to attend the jirga to discuss the main issues facing the fractious country in the context of Karzai's plans to bring peace and development after more than eight years of war.

Karzai's plan calls for the removal of names of certain Taliban leaders from a UN blacklist and possibly giving them asylum in another Islamic country from where they can engage in talks with the Afghan government.

US reaction

The US state department said it was aware of the Maldives talks.

"We are not saying they are a good thing or a bad thing. The real question is, what comes out of this," PJ Crowley, the US state department spokesman, said.

In January, Al Jazeera revealed that a secret meeting between government and Taliban officials had taken place on the Indian Ocean islands as part of an effort to engage the Taliban in the political process.

The Maldives is one of few countries that issues visas to Afghans on arrival and many of the participants would risk arrest if they attended such a meeting in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is mired in a war with Taliban-led anti-government fighters, with the 130,000 Nato and US troops due to rise to 150,000 by August.