Alternative talks with Taliban sought in Riyadh
KABUL - Agence France-PresseThe Afghan and Pakistani governments are seeking peace talks with the Taliban in Saudi Arabia separate from U.S.-brokered talks with the insurgents in Qatar, officials said Jan. 29.
The Taliban announced earlier this month that they planned to set up a political office in Qatar ahead of talks with Washington. Taliban negotiators have begun holding preliminary talks with U.S. officials in the Gulf state on plans for peace talks aimed at ending the decade-long war in Afghanistan, a former Taliban official said Jan. 29.
But Afghan and Taliban officials indicated in response to a BBC report about plans for talks in Saudi Arabia that both Kabul and Islamabad were looking for their own talks with the insurgents. Asked for his response to the BBC report, Afghan foreign ministry spokesman Janan Mosazai said: “Of course we support any steps towards the Afghan peace process.” He refused to comment further. But a senior Afghan government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: “We will always pursue all roads towards peace in Afghanistan, including contacts with the Taliban that are not limited to the Qatar office.”
A member of the Taliban’s leadership council, the Pakistan-based Quetta Shura, also backed the report of talks in Saudi Arabia. “This is because they think they have been sidelined. They want some control over peace talks,” he said on condition of anonymity.