Afghan Leaders Set New Conditions for Peace Talks with Taliban

Posted December 15th, 2011 at 1:20 pm (UTC-5)
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Afghan leaders have agreed to new conditions for resuming peace talks with the Taliban, saying the militant group must establish an address in one of three locations and stop all violence.

The office of Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he discussed how to revive the stalled peace process Thursday, in a meeting with senior government officials, former mujahideen commanders and religious figures.

The presidential palace said the Afghan leaders agreed that future negotiations with the insurgents ideally should take place at an official Taliban office inside Afghanistan. The leaders said that if the situation does not allow for such an office, they also would accept holding peace talks with the Taliban at an office in Saudi Arabia or Turkey.

The Afghan leaders also said “fighting and violence against the Afghan people” must end before negotiations with the Taliban begin.

The Afghan government has toughened its terms for dialogue with the insurgents in recent months in response to a series of failed peace efforts, some involving purported Taliban interlocutors who turned out to be frauds. A man claiming to be Taliban peace emissary assassinated the head of the Afghan government's peace council, Burhanuddin Rabbani, in a suicide bombing in September.

Since that attack, Mr. Karzai has ruled out more talks until the Taliban agrees to conduct them at a secure address where negotiators can verify the identity of anyone claiming to represent the militants. But Afghan officials have said any office must not serve as a base for the Taliban to build its political clout.

Afghanistan withdrew its ambassador from Qatar on Wednesday after an Indian newspaper reported that the Gulf state has offered to host a Taliban office during talks with U.S. officials. The Hindu report quoted unnamed Indian diplomatic sources.

Afghan officials said Thursday the Afghan ambassador in Doha was recalled for consultations in protest at what they called Qatar's failure to consult with Kabul about the proposed Taliban office.