Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday urged the Taliban to join talks to bring peace to the war-torn country, despite the insurgents’ leadership ruling out negotiations.
“On this holy day of Eid al-Adha I once again call on those compatriots who are unhappy, I request them to join the peace efforts,” Karzai said in a statement to mark the major Muslim festival.
Karzai has previously appealed to the Taliban to come to the negotiating table and low-level commanders are said to have already spoken to the government in Kabul.
But the hardline group’s reclusive, one-eyed leader Mullah Omar said on Monday that reports of their involvement in peace talks to bring an end to the nine-year conflict were “misleading rumours”.
In his own lengthy statement to mark the biggest Muslim festival, Omar also dismissed the surge of tens of thousands of coalition troops as ineffective and again predicted defeat for foreign forces.
NATO leaders gather in the Portuguese capital Lisbon on Friday for a two-day summit that is likely to be dominated by the shift in strategy in Afghanistan, including the timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops.
There was a heavy security presence in Kabul and other Afghan cities for the festival, with vehicle searches and identity checks. The capital has been spared much of the violence that has afflicted other parts of the country in recent months.