KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Afghan government still hopes to hold peace talks with the Taliban despite a recent statement from the insurgents saying they refuse to take part in the process, an official said Monday.
Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai called the Taliban's rejection a "tactical" move and said Kabul would continue its peace efforts.
"We are very much hopeful to reach a result in the peace process," said Karzai during a joint press conference with British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond in Kabul. He added that the Afghan government had already formed a delegation for future peace talks.
The Taliban issued a statement on Saturday saying they would not participate in a peace process with the government until foreign forces stop attacking their positions and leave the country. It said they "reject" peace talks and that reports of their participation were "rumors."
Hammond said that United Kingdom supports the Afghan peace process and would provide $1.4 million toward preparations.
Face-to-face talks were expected to take place in Pakistan in early March, but Afghan officials said in recent days that they have been postponed for at least a week. Senior government officials had characterized the meeting as the first real step in a peace process aimed at ending the war, now in its 15th year.
The talks were decided on by delegates of four countries — Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States — who met in Kabul last month. No date was set, and no names of participants were announced.
The last attempt at direct talks broke down last summer after just one round when Kabul announced the death of longtime Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar.