Karzai ‘willing to join’ Taliban peace talks

Afghan president may join talks after US Secretary of State called Karzai to address his concerns, spokesman says.

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 government spokesman told 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 US followed through with promises, he said were made by the 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 US broke commitments that the office would not be seen as an embassy or government-in-exile.

“John Kerry assured that the Qatari government has removed the ‘Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’ sign from the Taliban office and the office is for peace talks only,” a statement from Karzai’s office said.

Discussing Pakistan’s role in the peace talks

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

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

The Afghan president also broke off ongoing Afghan-US talks on an agreement to allow the US 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 developments came one day after the US announced it would engage in direct negotiations with the Afghan-based armed group.

But the State Department later said that the US had “never confirmed” any specific meeting between US 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.

Pakistan’s UN envoy speaks on Taliban talks

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.”

Meanwhile, the Taliban proposed a deal in which they would free a US soldier held captive since 2009 in exchange for five of their most senior operatives at Guantanamo Bay.

The prisoner exchange is the first item on the Taliban’s agenda before even starting peace talks with the US, Suhail was quoted by AP as saying.

Al Jazeera’s James Bays, reporting from Doha, said that it was likely that “talks will probably go ahead in the coming days”, but that significant challenges needed to be faced between the US 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.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies