US Envoy: Taliban Must Renounce Terrorism to Participate in Talks

Posted January 22nd, 2012 at 5:35 pm (UTC-5)
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A top U.S. diplomat visiting Afghanistan said Sunday the Taliban must renounce international terrorism and endorse peace initiatives if it wants to participate in negotiations to end the 10-year war.

Marc Grossman, the special U.S. envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, made the comment after talks with Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Jawed Ludin.

“I am looking forward to the Taliban being clear about breaking ties with international terrorism, denouncing it, distancing themselves from it, and also to say that they are prepared to participate in an Afghan peace process where Afghans talk to Afghans about the future of Afghanistan.''

Grossman also endorsed a Taliban move to open a diplomatic office in Qatar, which is widely seen as a key step in starting a multi-lateral peace process. But he said Afghan Taliban participation in any such dialogue will require a clear commitment to end armed conflict.

“Afghanistan and the US support a peace process for Afghanistan. Efforts being made with Qatar to open an office for the Afghani Taliban need now to move to enable a conversation among Afghans for peace.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Ludin also voiced support for opening the Taliban office and said Kabul backs a possible U.S. move that would transfer some Taliban inmates from the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay (Cuba) to Qatar.

“If the US decides to transfer these detainees to Qatar, to the extent that that means these people will be reunited with their families, the Afghan government will support that. But, as I said, if the US decides to do this, we will support it, but it is a decision for your (U.S.) government, but you will also have to ascertain the desire of the detainees themselves.”

Grossman said no decision has been made about the prisoner transfer.

“We haven't made any decisions and it's no surprise to any of you that this is an issue in the United States of law. First of all we have to meet the requirements of our law.''

Also Sunday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai met with visiting French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet. He thanked France for all of its assistance over the past ten years, calling it “an old and sincere historic friend” of the Afghan nation.

Longuet vowed that his country would continue to assist the people of Afghanistan.

Before visiting Afghanistan, the U.S. envoy made brief stops in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and India. He also wanted to visit Pakistan, but Islamabad told him not to come until its process of revising the policy toward Washington is complete.

Pakistan suspended its anti-terror operation with the U.S. following a cross-border NATO air strike late November that mistakenly killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

Grossman said Pakistan's role is crucial in the success of the Afghan peace process. He said “there cannot be a comprehensive settlement in Afghanistan unless Pakistan is part of it.”