Taliban told to distance itself from al-Qaeda before opening Qatar office

Last Updated: Fri, May 03, 2013 09:30 hrs

The Taliban has been asked to issue a declaration distancing itself from al-Qaeda and committing itself to peace talks before it can open a political office in Qatar, diplomatic sources have said.

The conditions have been laid down by the Qatari government with the backing of Kabul and the US, reports the Guardian.

They would involve making an unambiguous public break with global jihadism and promising to use the office in the capital city of Doha as a base for negotiations with the US and the Afghan government, rather than as the seat of a government in exile or for fundraising.

At a three-way meeting outside Brussels last week - attended by Afghan president Hamid Karzai - the US secretary of state, John Kerry, asked Pakistan's army commander, General Ashfaq Kayani, to demonstrate his stated support for peace talks by putting pressure on the Pakistan-based Taliban to make the declaration.

David Cameron made the same appeal to Kayani at Chequers in February.

But the Pakistani delegation told British officials that Islamabad's influence over the Taliban was far from absolute.

The Taliban sent representatives to Doha last year with the aim of pursuing talks with the US, but the peace process stalled over a failure to agree terms for the release of five Afghan insurgent commanders held at Guantanamo Bay.

President Barack Obama's restated commitment this week to close the prison camp has revived hopes that releases could be back on the table, but it is far from clear whether the Taliban would accept conditions it rejected last year, including the pledge that the prisoners released would stay in Doha, under Qatari supervision. (ANI)

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