Afghan foreign minister to visit Qatar to discuss Taliban talks

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 10, 2012 12:03 AM
Afghan foreign minister to visit Qatar to discuss Taliban talks

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmay Rasool will visit Qatar to meet government officials to discuss reconciliation with the Taliban, a ministry spokesman said on Saturday, in a sign the nascent peace process could gain momentum.

Rasool is scheduled to leave for Qatar in under ten days, Foreign Ministry spokesman Janan Mosazai told Reuters.

The Afghan Taliban announced in January it would open a political office in Qatar, suggesting the group may be willing to engage in negotiations that would be likely to give it Afghan government positions or official control over much of its historical southern heartland.

Initially the Kabul government was cool to the idea of the Taliban holding talks with U.S. officials in the Gulf Arab state of Qatar. President Hamid Karzai withdrew his ambassador to Doha, saying he had not been properly consulted.

Afghan officials have since pledged support for the Qatar reconciliation efforts, but also want Saudi Arabia and Turkey to facilitate talks.

The United States hopes to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table so Afghanistan can be stabilized before foreign combat troops leave at the end of 2014.

(Reporting by Hamid Shalizi; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Daniel Magnowski)