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Karzai appears to endorse U.S., Taliban talks over Qatar office

By Masoud Popalzai, CNN
updated 4:36 AM EST, Thu January 5, 2012
Taliban fighters stand near their weapons after joining Afghanistan government forces at a ceremony in Herat on December 29.
Taliban fighters stand near their weapons after joining Afghanistan government forces at a ceremony in Herat on December 29.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Karzai appears to endorse opening of Taliban office in Qatar
  • Karzai says talks are the only way to end violence in Afghanistan
  • Recent reports say the U.S. and others may want to strike a peace deal with the Taliban

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai appeared to endorse talks between the United States and the Taliban that could lead to the opening of a Taliban liaison office in Qatar.

Karzai's announcement Wednesday followed news a day earlier from the Taliban that it tentatively agreed to open an office in Qatar's capital city of Doha to facilitate talks on the Afghan conflict.

It appears to be the first time the Taliban -- who ruled Afghanistan from 1996 until 2001, when they were ousted in a U.S.-led invasion -- have offered talks without the condition of an American withdrawal from the country.

"Afghanistan, to save the country from war, conspiracies, the killing of innocent Afghans and to reach peace, agrees with the talks between United States of America and Taliban that will end up in establishing an office for Taliban in Qatar," Karzai said in a palace statement.

Karzai endorses U.S.-Taliban talks

In the statement, Karzai appeared to broadly endorse peace negotiations for a country that has been embroiled in more than 30 years of war.

It was unclear what, if any, outcome there would be in talks between the United States and the Taliban as Karzai, top Afghan peace officials and the Americans have all previously said that talks had to take place between Afghans.

"The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan with an emphasize on its firm position yet again, believes that talks and negotiation are the only way to reach peace and to come out of the atmosphere of war and imposed violence on Afghan nation," the palace statement said.

Recent media reports have said the United States and other foreign governments with a stake in the Afghan war may try to strike a separate deal with the Taliban.

The Washington Post reported in December that the Obama administration reached a tentative deal with Taliban negotiators that would have included the transfer of five Afghans from Guantanamo Bay, and the Taliban's public renunciation of international terrorism.

The deal collapsed, the Post said, because of Karzai's objections.

Any talk of a peace process slowed in September, when suicide bombers killed senior Afghan peace negotiator and former President Burhannudin Rabbani.

Ismail Qassemyar, a member of Afghanistan's High Peace Council has called peace talks "an Afghan process" and warned against the United States or other nations trying to strike their own peace deal with the group.

Qassemyar said a Taliban office in Qatar would by no means legitimize the Islamist group.

Karzai told CNN in December that the government cannot hold talks until the Islamic militia identifies a representative with the authority to negotiate.

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