KABUL: An Afghan official on Sunday said the government would hold its first-ever direct talks with the Taliban within two weeks, but the latter quickly denied any such meeting was planned and reiterated their opposition to negotiating with the government representatives.
The Taliban have been holding peace talks with the US for nearly a year but have refused to recognise the Kabul government, viewing it as an American puppet. Abdul Salam Rahimi, Afghanistan's state minister for peace affairs, said a 15-member government delegation will meet with the Taliban in Europe, without elaborating.
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said there had been no agreement on such a meeting and that had not been coordinated with Taliban.
He said once they reach an agreement with the US, they would be open to intra-Afghan talks, but any government representatives would have to participate in a personal capacity.
Suhail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban’s political office in Qatar, said talks with Kabul would only come after the departure of US forces under a deal.
Khalilzad said on Twitter that after the US concludes its agreements, intra-Afghan negotiations would take place between the Taliban and “an inclusive and effective national negotiating team consisting of senior government officials, key political party representatives, civil society and women”.
He said it would include the Taliban and "an inclusive and effective national negotiating team consisting of senior government officials, key political party representatives, civil society and women."
Khalilzad has held several rounds of direct talks with the Taliban in Qatar since late last year with the focus on a Taliban demand for withdrawal of US and other foreign forces and a US demand the Taliban guarantee that Afghanistan will not be used as a base for terrorism.
Two other main issues in the peace process are a ceasefire and Taliban’s talks with the Afghan government. But the Taliban have refused to talk to the Afghan government, terming it a US puppet.
There are reports that the US and Taliban are going to sign an MoU this week to firm up a plan for withdrawal of foreign troops.
On Sunday, Taliban guerrillas destroyed police checkpoints killing at least seven policemen and civilians in an attempt to seize control of a district in Ghazni.
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