Afghan Pres. Hamid Karzai Announces New Peace Talks With Taliban In Qatar

 @MayaErgas
on June 18 2013 10:18 AM

Update, 10:08 a.m. EDT: U.S. officials announced they will be meeting with Taliban representatives.

The Taliban said it will open an office in Qatar to seek political solution to Afghanistan war (@AP, @BreakingNews, Tuesday).

Original post: On the heels of the announcement, Hamid Karzai’s government in Afghanistan said it will meet the Taliban halfway and travel to Doha to broker a cease fire, Al-Jazeera reported Tuesday.

Afghan President Karzai made the announcement during a speech marking the final U.S. and NATO handover of Afghanistan’s security to Afghan forces.

"Afghanistan's High Peace Council will travel to Qatar to discuss peace talks with the Taliban," Karzai said during his speech in Kabul. “"We hope that our brothers the Taliban also understand that the process will move to our country soon.

“We don't have any immediate preconditions for talks between the Afghan Peace Council and the Taliban, but we have principles laid down,” Karzai continued. “The principles are that the talks, having begun in Qatar, must immediately be moved to Afghanistan. Second, that the talks must bring about an end to violence in Afghanistan. Third, that the talks must not become a tool for any third country for exploitation with regard to its or their interests in Afghanistan.”

In his speech, Karzai also called for “positive engagement” with Pakistan, RFE reported. Pakistan, a former ally of the Taliban who previously helped the Taliban come to power in the 1990s, is now itself facing a Taliban insurgency, Reuters reported. A spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban told Reuters they would support the Afghan peace talks. Afghan Taliban insurgents, who earlier this year announced a new offensive to try to retake Afghanistan, have previously rejected the idea of peace talks.

Non-Afghan forces are expected to pull out of Afghanistan by 2014. At the same ceremony, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen called Afghan forces “formidable.”

So far in 2013, 68 coalition operatives and 54 American operatives have been killed in Afghanistan.

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