Germany backs Taliban talks in Afghanistan

Germany has the third largest contingent of foreign troops in Afghanistan but had long rejected proposals to include the Taliban in peace negotiations.

Berlin: Germany`s foreign and defence
ministers called on Sunday for the Taliban to be included in
Afghanistan peace talks, ahead of a major international
conference for the war-ravaged country next month.

Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and Defence Minister
Thomas de Maiziere told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper that
negotiations with the Islamist militant group was the only
realistic option for lasting peace.

"Reconciliation does not happen among friends but rather
between erstwhile opponents," Westerwelle was quoted as
saying.

"That is what we need to work on instead of speculation
about who might not be ready to reconcile."

Germany has the third largest contingent of foreign troops
in Afghanistan but had long rejected proposals to include the
Taliban in peace negotiations.

Westerwelle, who will host ministers from more than 100
countries in the western city of Bonn on December 5 to discuss
the future of Afghanistan after the withdrawal of NATO troops
in 2014, said there was no guarantee of success.

"But all agree that it must be tried," he said.
The West "cannot simply say, `You are evil, we won`t
negotiate with you`," added de Maiziere.

"We cannot exclude everyone from the inner-Afghan
reconciliation process who once had a sword in his hand," he
said.

Only when "a sufficient number of important groups" take
part will the peace process have a chance of working.

Westerwelle said the war in Afghanistan could not be won
militarily.

"After 10 years it is obvious that in Afghanistan, there
can only be a political solution, not a military one," he
said.
Taliban fighters frequently attack convoys supplying NATO
troops in Afghanistan and neighbouring Pakistan, as part of a
10-year insurgency against the western-backed Kabul government
since US troops toppled their regime in 2001.

This month, Afghan elders backed talks with Taliban who
renounce violence, despite the assassination in September of
peace envoy Burhanuddin Rabbani which officials blame on
insurgents.

De Maiziere said Berlin would keep troops in Afghanistan
after the NATO pullout at the end of 2014, to focus on the
training of local forces.

PTI

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