Taliban negotiator says possible ceasefire on cards



Islamabad: A key Afghan Taliban negotiator has said a ceasefire may be on the agenda during talks with the United States in the Qatari capital of Doha, where the militants have opened a political office. Muhammad Naeem, who heads the Taliban's political office, said issues like a ceasefire could be discussed after the formal talks get underway.

"Ceasefire could be discussed during the talks," he said.

He indicated a major shift in the group's policy by hinting at possible talks with the government-backed Afghan High Peace Council.

"Our Qatar office is a second home for Afghans and we will listen to every Afghan. Every Afghan will be welcomed in our office," Naeem said when he was asked if the Taliban were willing to negotiate with the High Peace Council.

Naeem, however, said Afghan authorities had not yet approached their office in Doha.

Asked about the agenda of the Taliban's first meeting with US officials, the negotiator said, "We will present our proposals in the first meeting and will listen to what the Americans have to say."

He sought to quash the impression that Pakistan has an influence on the Afghan Taliban. "We are completely independent in taking decisions and are not under the influence of any country," Naeem said.

He said the Taliban want good relations with all neighbouring countries.

The Taliban had pulled out of talks with the US early last year, accusing Washington of reneging on its promises.

The Taliban on Tuesday had announced the opening of its office in Doha, which would hold peace talks with the Afghan government and separate direct parleys with US that could boost Afghan reconciliation process after 12 years of war.

But Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been angered by US overtures to the Taliban and has objected to the name given to the new Taliban office in Qatar, "Islamic Emirate Of Afghanistan" - which was the formal name of Taliban's 1996-2001 regime - on the grounds that no such thing existed.

Yesterday, Karzai broke off crucial security parleys with the US for a deal to allow American soldiers in Afghanistan after the NATO combat mission ends next year.

PTI