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Afghan Minister Says Kabul Could Meet Taliban Directly Within Two Weeks


Afghan State Minister for Peace Affairs Abdul Salam Rahimi (file photo)

A senior Afghan official has expressed hope that direct talks between the Afghan government and Taliban negotiators could begin within two weeks.

Such a meeting would be a crucial step in efforts to end the war in Afghanistan.

The Taliban has so far refused to speak to representatives of President Ashraf Ghani's government in any official capacity, saying it is illegitimate and a puppet of foreign states.

Recently, however, Taliban negotiators in the Qatari capital, Doha, did meet some members of Ghani's government who attended a peace summit in a "personal capacity."

Abdul Salam Rahimi, Afghanistan's state minister for peace affairs, told reporters on July 27 that a 15-member Afghan government delegation he is meant to head is now "preparing for direct talks" with the Taliban.

"We are working with all sides and hope that in the next two weeks the first meeting will take place in a European country," said Rahimi, Ghani's former chief of staff who was appointed to the ministry post in June.

Meanwhile, on July 27, Ghani issued a decree dissolving the country's High Peace Council -- a body that had been appointed by the president and previously had been meant to lead Kabul's peace efforts with the Taliban.

There was no immediate comment from the Taliban about Rahimi's announcement, which came as U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad was continuing a visit to Kabul.

Khalilzad is expected to return to Doha at some point during the next week for what would be an eighth round of direct talks between U.S. officials and Taliban negotiators.

Both Washington and the Taliban have said recently that they were making progress toward reaching a deal that would end the nearly 18-year involvement in Afghanistan by U.S. military forces.

But any deal would require direct talks between the Taliban and representatives of Afghanistan's government.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, AFP, and dpa
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