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Talks between US-Taliban to be held in Qatar

03 January, 2019

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The next round of talks between the US officials and the Taliban will be held in Qatar this month, Taliban sources said on Wednesday.

The United Arab Emirates, which hosted the Taliban and the US officials in Abu Dhabi on Dec 17-18, had stated that a new round of talks would be held in Abu Dhabi ‘to complete the Afghanistan reconciliation process’.

However, Taliban sources confided to Daily Times that the talks are planned in Doha, where the Taliban have a political office. They also disputed claim by the Afghan officials that Saudi Arabia will soon host Afghan talks.

Taliban and the US officials have not reached any agreement despite having at least four rounds of talks started in July. A Taliban source, privy to the talks, is hopeful some progress in the next round.

Taliban political negotiators travelled to Iran this week ahead of their new round of talks and discussed “post-invasion and regional peace” with Iranian officials, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid says.

Earlier the Iranian foreign ministry said Taliban have held ‘intensive talks’ with Iranian officials in Tehran that were aimed at ‘facilitating dialogues between the Afghan groups and Kabul administration to advance peace process in the country’.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi told his weekly briefing on Monday that Iran is “quite willing to play a pivotal role in establishing peace and tranquility in its neighbouring state especially now, after Shamkhani’s meeting with the Afghan government,” Iranian state IRNA news agency reported.

A Taliban statement said their delegations pay visits to regional countries to seek countries’ political and moral support and cooperation to end the invasion of Afghanistan.

Taliban political negotiators visited Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Indonesia over the past few months. A Taliban official told Daily Times that talks could be held in other countries if they formally make request and the US also agrees with other venues.

The visit to Iran is seen as part of the Afghan insurgents’ move to strengthen relations with countries.

Taliban have visited Tehran several times and their chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour was killed in a US drone strike shortly after he returned from Iran on May 21, 2016.

Taliban, who had tense relationship with Iran during their rule since 1996 until they were ousted in late 2001 as the result of the US military operation, later established relations with Iran and some sources have confided to Daily Times that Taliban have their special envoy for Iran like several other countries.

The US sanctions and the emergence of Daesh brought the Taliban and Iran closer. Iran would definitely pay back to the US in Afghanistan for its hostile policies towards the Islamic Republic and Taliban need support to fight the Americans and its Western allies. Iran is among the few regional countries, which demand end to the US invasion of Afghanistan.

In a series of background interviews it was found that Taliban mostly believe Saudi Arabia had almost broken contacts with them for years. A Taliban official insists many countries including permanent members of the UN Security Countries, European Union, neighbours and Asian countries are in contact with the Taliban political representatives but Saudi Arabia did not.

Taliban and Saudi officials met for the first time in UAE in December after a long time and Afghan officials say that the Kingdom has planned peace talks that will be attended by the Taliban and the Afghan government.

Taliban are also trying to create a balanced relationship with countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies, but a Taliban official says it depends on the Saudi officials if they establish contacts with the Taliban like other countries.

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