Good news, says Kerry on Taliban opening office in Qatar

Last Updated: Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - 22:44

Washington: The Taliban opening its political office in Doha and agreeing to hold talks with the United States and the government of Afghanistan is good news, US Secretary of State John Kerry, said on Tuesday.

"It is good news. We are very pleased with what is taking place," Kerry told reporters in a brief comment on the latest announcement coming from the Taliban in Doha.

This was the first official comment coming from the top US diplomat after Taliban made its announcement in Doha and senior administration officials confirmed in Washington that the US would be holding direct talks with the Taliban in the next few days.

Kerry, however, made no other comment on the latest development, which officials described as the first significant step towards achieving the goal of long term peace in the region.

The Taliban in its statement said, they oppose the use of Afghan soil to threaten other countries; and that they support an Afghan peace process.
"These are two statements which we`ve long called for and together, they fulfil the requirements for the Taliban to open an office, a political office, in Doha for the purposes of negotiation with the Afghan government," a senior administration official told reporters.

US officials said the statement represents an important first step towards reconciliation, which they were quick to acknowledge, after 30 years of armed conflict in Afghanistan, will certainly promise to be complex, long and messy, but nonetheless, this is an important first step.

"The outcome of this process marks that the Taliban and other insurgent groups meet three end conditions: First, that they break ties with al-Qaeda; that they end the violence; and that they accept Afghanistan`s constitution, including its protections for women and minorities," the official said.

He also commended Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the Afghan government for their determination to end the conflict and build a future of security, peace, and prosperity for the Afghan people.

"The United States will continue to support these critical efforts and our commitment to a unified, democratic, and sovereign Afghanistan will endure," the official said.
At the same time, the official insisted that as the US pursues this path to peace with this important first step today, its core goal in Afghanistan is always primary, and that is to defeat al-Qaeda and ensure that Afghanistan can never again be a safe haven for international terrorism.

Another senior administration official said its clear that this is the first step on what, if its successful, will be a very long road.

"The core of this process is not going to be the US-Taliban talks-those can help advance the process, but the core of it is going to be negotiations among Afghans, and the level of trust on both sides is extremely low, as one would expect. So its going to be a long, hard process if indeed it advances significantly at all," the official said.

PTI




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