US asks Taliban to denounce terror, back peace drive
James B. Cunningham told a news conference in Kabul Afghanistan and Qatar should discuss the opening of Taliban’s liaison office in the Gulf state. He asked the insurgents to release a policy statement supporting the peace effort and condemning terror.
"If the Taliban don’t accept these conditions, the ongoing talks will not be fruitful," he said. The US government did support Afghan government-led negotiations, the envoy stressed.
Calling reports about secret US dialogue with the Taliban "far from true", Cunningham said the Taliban had to agree to the conditions before the process got under way in all earnest.
Without giving details, he said the US had been in contact with the fighters and other people to pave the ground for talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government.
"It has been our principled position that Afghans should talk to Afghans and lead the peace process," he reiterated.
Asked about reports regarding the Afghan government’s plan to open a separate office for talks with the militants, he reiterated the US would back Kabul’s moves. "We support the peace talks wherever they are held."
On Monday, some media reports said the Karzai administration was planning to offer an olive branch to insurgent leaders in Saudi Arabia. The BBC quoted unnamed officials as saying the meeting would take place in weeks before the establishment of a Taliban office in Qatar.
A senior Afghan government official told the BBC: "Even if the Taliban office is established in Qatar, we will obviously pursue other efforts in the region, including Saudi Arabia and Turkey."
The Afghan government, however, rejected the reports. The Government’s Media and Information Centre (GMIC) chief, Abdul Hakim Ashur, said the report was untrue.
Earlier in the month, the Taliban announced their plan to set up a political bureau in Doha ahead of talks with Washington. Taliban negotiators have begun holding preliminary meetings with US officials in Doha on how to end the decade-long war in Afghanistan.
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