Karzai Invites Taliban Leadership to Direct Talks

Posted February 21st, 2012 at 1:15 pm (UTC-5)
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Afghan President Hamid Karzai has invited the Taliban leadership to direct talks with his government, while asking Pakistan to “support and facilitate” those negotiations aimed at ending a decade of war.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Mr. Karzai said he was inviting Taliban leaders “in order to realize the objectives of the peace process.”

He said that process envisions all Afghans who have remained outside Afghanistan's political process, including the Taliban, returning to “peaceful lives in their country.”

The Afghan president said Pakistan's support of the peace process will be “crucial to its success” and a “significant contribution to the security and stability of Afghanistan and the entire region.”

In an interview with VOA , Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Sadiq Saddiqi called on Islamabad to get engaged positively in talks with the Taliban by pressuring insurgent leaders believed to be hiding in Pakistan to participate.

Late last week, President Karzai visited Pakistan for a trilateral summit with his Pakistani and Iranian counterparts on regional stability.

During the summit, Pakistani officials warned President Karzai against having unrealistic expectations about bringing the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar told reporters that it would be “preposterous” for Afghanistan to expect Pakistan to deliver Taliban chief Mullah Omar — who is rumored to be hiding in Pakistan — for talks.

It is unclear whether President Karzai had pressed the Pakistani leadership at that time for access to any senior Afghan Taliban leaders believed to be based in Pakistan. Islamabad has had close ties over the years with the Afghan Taliban, but denies that the group is based within its borders.

The Wall Street Journal last Thursday quoted Mr. Karzai as saying that the U.S. and Afghan governments have begun secret three-way talks with the Taliban. However, the insurgent group issued a statement insisting once again that it has never negotiated with what it calls Mr. Karzai's “puppet administration.”

Preliminary peace talks said to be under way in Qatar reportedly include only U.S. and Taliban officials.