Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said that his government will send representatives to Qatar soon to discuss peace with the Taliban, a day after it was reported that the group was set to open its political office in Doha.
The announcement on Tuesday is the first significant step towards reaching a ceasefire in the 12-year-old war against the armed group.
“Afghanistan’s High Peace Council will travel to Qatar to discuss peace talks with the Taliban,” Karzai said in Kabul, referring to the council he formed in late 2010 to pursue talks with the armed group.
Karzai was speaking at a ceremony in which the international military coalition marked its final handover of security to Afghan forces.
There was no immediate comment from Taliban.
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Al Jazeera had earlier reported that Taliban would open a political office in the Qatari capital, Doha, on Tuesday.
Until earlier this year, Karzai was strongly opposed to the Taliban having a meeting venue outside Afghanistan, but the US has pushed for the Taliban to be present at the negotiating table.
In March, Karzai met Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the Emir of Qatar, and discussed “issues of mutual interest,” the state news agency QNA said, without elaborating on the substance of their talks.
Members of the Taliban arrived to Doha about one year ago to establish the office from which they could engage in negotiations with representatives of Washington, in the hope of eventually achieving direct Afghan-to-Afghan talks with the government of President Hamid Karzai.
But as early as March of this year, the Taliban seemed far from ready to forge peace by laying down their arms.