Afghanistan recalls envoy from Qatar

Kabul recalls ambassador for "consultations" amid separate reports of a Taliban office to be opened in the Gulf state.

     Western diplomats hope the opening of a Taliban office will push forward the prospect of peace talks [Reuters]

    Afghanistan has recalled its ambassador from Qatar for "consultations," the Afghan foreign ministry announced, amid media reports over the opening of a Taliban office in the Gulf state.

    A senior Afghan official told Al Jazeera on Thursday that they were unhappy with Qatar for not consulting them.

    "On the Qatar issue, we've been fully in the picture on the discussions around efforts to establish an address for the Taliban there -- through the Germans and Americans," the official said on condition of anonymity.

    "We're recalling our ambassador because we're not happy the Qataris have not consulted us or engaged us on this issue assuming that was OK, which it isn't."

    The official said however that Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, supports the idea that the Taliban needs an address that helps facilitate the peace process.

    In a statement on Wednesday, the foreign ministry thanked Qatar for help with reconstruction, but said the Afghan ambassador had been recalled to Kabul. It did not give any official reason for the recall.

    "Considering the recent developments in Afghanistan and the region, including the relations between Afghanistan and Qatar, the Afghan government has decided to recall Khalid Ahmad Zakaria from Doha for some consultations," the ministry said in the statement.

    "Diplomatic relationship between the two countries will continue through the Embassy and Afghanistan's charge d'affaires in Doha."

    The ministry did not respond to calls seeking comment on why the ambassador had been recalled.

    However, The Hindu newspaper in India, citing unidentified Indian diplomatic sources, said that final arrangements had been put in place for a Taliban office in Qatar that would have "the privileges but not the formal protection of a diplomatic mission".

    Details were agreed by a senior Taliban representative close to the group's leader, Mullah Omar, together with officials from Qatar and the US, the newspaper said.

    Plans for peace talks

    The US has discussed plans for the Taliban to open an address in Qatar by the end of the year in a move designed to allow the West to begin formal peace talks with the group, the AFP news agency reported.

    The AFP quoted a high ranking Afghan government official, who spoke to the news agency anonymously, saying that the Afghan government was aware that Qatar had held talks with the US and Germany on allowing a Taliban office to open, and supported the move as a means of facilitating the peace process.

    But he said: "The ambassador has been recalled as a protest over why they did not allow the Afghan government into these talks while there are official diplomatic relations between the two countries."

    He added that the opening of such an office "should not be seen as a concession" to the Taliban, the AFP reported.

    The office of the self-styled Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan would be the first internationally recognised representation for the Taliban since it was ousted from power by the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

    Western diplomats have said it is hoped the opening of a Taliban office would push forward the prospect of talks intended to reconcile the group with the Afghan government and bring an end to the decade-long war.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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