The British newspaper said it had learned a senior former Taliban leader has been talking to Kabul officials in a loose peace process facilitated by Saudi Arabia and given logistical support by Britain. The unnamed Taliban negotiator has been shuttling between the militant Islamist group's bases, Saudi Arabia and European capitals, sources told The Observer.
The revelation contradicts British government statements that negotiations with the Taliban, denounced as a terrorist organization, could only happen when it had given up violence, the newspaper said.
The secret talks, however, have lost momentum in recent weeks, unnamed Afghan officials said.
"They keep changing what they are asking for," one official told the newspaper. "One day it is one thing, the next another."
He said one aim of the talks was to drive a wedge between the Taliban and Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist organization.