Karzai holds talks in Qatar, Taliban in focus
Doha, March 31, 2013
President Hamid Karzai held talks with Qatari leaders on Sunday, official media reported, on a visit the Kabul government has said would seek to explore the possibility of talks with Taliban insurgents on ending Afghanistan's war.
Karzai's trip to Qatar follows years of stalled discussions among the US, Pakistan and the Taliban about a possible Afghan settlement.
Afghanistan's embassy in Doha confirmed Karzai's arrival on Saturday for a two-day visit to the Qatari capital, but declined to give any details on the purpose of the visit.
Qatar's state news agency QNA said Karzai held talks with the Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, attended by the Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al-Thani.
QNA gave no details of the discussions, and later reported without elaborating that Karzai had left the country.
Afghanistan's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Janan Mosazai, announcing the visit last week, said Karzai would "discuss the peace process and the opening of a (Taliban) office for the purposes of conducting negotiations with Afghanistan."
The Kabul government has been pushing hard to get the Taliban to the negotiating table before foreign troops withdraw.
Afghan officials have not held direct talks with the militants, who were toppled in 2001 and have proven resilient after more than a decade of war with Western forces.
Earlier this month, Karzai said the Taliban and the US had been holding talks in Qatar on a "daily basis", but the militant group and Washington denied they had resumed efforts on dialogue that stalled a year ago.
The Taliban suspended those talks, saying Washington was giving mixed signals on the nascent Afghan reconciliation process. However, the US has said it would support setting up a Taliban office in Qatar where peace talks between the Taliban and Afghanistan could take place.
On a visit to Kabul last week, US Secretary of State John Kerry repeated a US call for the Taliban to enter into talks and a wider political process.
He issued a veiled threat if they did not, saying US President Barack Obama had yet to say how many U.S. troops will remain in the country after 2014.
Karzai has stressed the need to bring neighbouring Pakistan into such a negotiation. US and Afghan officials have long said the Taliban forces have sanctuary across the border in Pakistan.
Pakistan denies any senior insurgents enjoy sanctuary within its borders. - Reuters
More INTERNATIONAL NEWS Stories
- Big bananas: Chiquita, Fyffes merge
- Radar sweeps, dozens of aircraft, 6 navies, but no sign of missing plane
- N Korea tanker loads oil at Libya rebel port
- Gold drops as US growth optimism weighs
- Merkel raps Putin; Russia tightens grip on Crimea
- World 'at sea' over missing Malaysian jetliner
- Passports requiring probe were on Malaysia flight
- 40 killed in Yemen as Houthi fighters near capital
- Vietnam finds object in sea; search on
- $5bn poll spend to boost India economy
- Libya authorises use of force against Korean tanker
- Ukraine PM says he will go to US to discuss crisis
- Syrian journalist killed covering fighting
- Malaysian jet may have turned back before vanishing
- No sign of missing plane; Malaysia probes false passports
- Two Europeans not on board 'missing' Malaysian jet
- China draws red line on North Korea
- Saudi sentences three to death for 2003 bombing
- First bitcoin machine opens in UK
- US sanctions will boomerang, warns Russia
- China plans $50bn bank to fund projects
- Sony to sell Tokyo 'birthplace'
- Obama orders sanctions over Russian moves
- Crimea parliament votes to join Russia
- Arab League to be revamped
- 'Upskirting' is legal: Massachusetts court
- Singapore probes 'unnatural' death of bitcoin trader
- Onus on world powers for Syria war crimes: UN
- US, Russia set for talks on Ukraine crisis
- Brent oil drops below $109