Direct talks with Taliban expected soon

Feb. 21, 2012 at 12:47 PM
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KABUL, Afghanistan, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- It's only a matter of time before members of the Taliban and the Afghan government have direct peace talks, a member of a peace council said.

A Taliban spokesman last week denied claims by Afghan President Hamid Karzai in The Wall Street Journal that he spoke directly with members of the conservative Islamist group.

Karzai had said early on there were indirect talks with the Taliban, which admitted to speaking with U.S. officials about the prospects for a political liaison office in Qatar.

All parties involved in the reconciliation process in Afghanistan have welcomed the Taliban to the negotiating table so long as they denounce violence and honor the spirit of Afghan law. The Taliban had said they wouldn't have formal talks, however, while foreign troops are on Afghan soil.

Ismail Qasimyar, a member of the Afghan High Peace Council, told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty he was upbeat about the prospects for bilateral talks with the Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan prior to the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

"Until recently, the Taliban leadership would say they wouldn't start negotiations if there was even one American soldier in Afghanistan," he was quoted as saying. Now, he added, direct peace talks would begin "soon."

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