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HindustanTimes Mon,21 Apr 2014

World

US-Taliban peace talks to be held on Thursday in Doha: officials
Reuters
Washington, June 18, 2013
First Published: 23:10 IST(18/6/2013)
Last Updated: 23:18 IST(18/6/2013)

Afghanistan peace talks between representatives of the United States and the Taliban will take place on Thursday in Doha, a senior US official said on Tuesday.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, warned that the process would likely be lengthy.

They said the Taliban would issue a statement on Tuesday opposing the use of Afghan soil for attacks on other countries and that they support an Afghan peace process.

The United States will insist the Taliban break ties with al Qaeda, end violence, and accept the Afghan constitution, including protection for women and minorities, the officials told reporters in a conference call.

"This is but the first step in what will be a long road," one US official said.

US officials said the level of trust between the Afghan government and the Taliban was low, and played down expectations that the talks would quickly lead to peace. The talks were likely to be subject to reversals and could take many years, one official said.

"Peace is not at hand," the official said.

US officials said the goal was to ensure that Afghanistan does not remain a haven for terrorism and to defeat al Qaeda.

The talks will be conducted on the Taliban side by its political commission, with the authorization of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, a US official said. The commission would also represent the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network, which is considered the United States' deadliest foe in Afghanistan.

Officials said they expect detainee exchanges to be on the agenda. The United States will ask for the safe return of US Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who has been a prisoner since June 2009, the officials said. He is thought to be being held by Taliban militants in northwestern Pakistan.

The first US-Taliban meeting is expected to be an exchange of agenda, followed by another meeting a week or two later to discuss next steps, the US officials said.

The planned talks follow discussions between President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai in January, officials added.


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