Afghan president says unofficial dialogue with the Taliban aimed at ending war has been going on for “quite some time”.
|Karzai says he has opened contacts with the Taliban as a step towards ending the war in Afghanistan [AFP]|
The Taliban has denied they are holding peace talks with the government of Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president.
In a statement released on Wednesday the armed group said that Karzai’s claims that such talks are being held are “baseless propaganda”.
The Afghan president had previously told Al Jazeera’s Frost over the World programme, to be aired on Friday, that he had face-to-face meetings with senior members of the Taliban.
“I have had personal meetings with some Taliban leaders and my colleagues from my government have had some meetings in and outside Afghanistan with the Taliban,” Karzai told Al Jazeera’s David Frost.
“These have mostly been unofficial after contact was initiated, countryman to countryman talks. But now is the time for us to begin to talk with the Taliban at a fixed address and with a more open agenda to tell us how to bring peace to Afghanistan and Pakistan,” Karzai added.
Karzai has long been pressing for a reconciliation with the Taliban and other groups to bring peace to his troubled country.
Last month he set up a high peace council to facilitate negotiations with moderate members within the Taliban.
The Taliban statement, however, refuted Karzai’s claim, saying that “the enemy has never contacted the leaders of the Islamic Emirate [Afghanistan], let alone holding any kind of talks with them.
“Nor any effort has been made by the enemy, directly or indirectly, to initiate contacts with the leadership of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” the statement said.
The Taliban also said that negotiating with the Karzai government “in conditions of foreign military presence in Afghanistan, is a waste of time”.
“It is not only harmful for achievement of the goal of independence of Afghanistan and establishment of a true Islamic government but gives legitimacy to the current [military] occupation of Afghanistan.”
Al Jazeera’s Sue Turton, reporting from the Afghan capital, Kabul, said the Taliban wants to make clear that the fight is still going on and its precondition for any kind of talks is for the coalition forces to leave the country.
“On the other side, President Karzai always made clear that there are three definite criteria before they would actually talk with the Taliban: lay down your weapons; give up any connection with al-Qaeda; accept the Afghan constitution,” she said.
The US has backed Karzai’s peace effort as Barack Obama, the US president, comes under growing pressure over a war in which more than 2,000 foreign troops have died, over half in the last two years.