AFP: The Taliban, leading a 10-year insurgency in Afghanistan on Wednesday denied that they would soon hold talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government in Saudi Arabia.
“There is no truth in these published reports saying that the delegation of the Islamic Emirate would meet with representatives of the Karzai government in Saudi Arabia in the near future,” the Taliban said on their website.
Afghan officials, requesting anonymity, had suggested that the two sides would hold talks in Saudi Arabia separate from planned negotiations in Qatar between the Taliban and the United States.
But it was never clear whether the Taliban, who have so far resisted talks with the Afghan government, or the Saudis, who have conditioned involvement on the Taliban renouncing al Qaeda, would come on board.
Taliban negotiators have begun preliminary discussions with the United States in Qatar on plans for peace talks aimed at ending the decade-long war.
They have also announced plans to set up an office in Doha.
On Wednesday, the Taliban said they had not yet “reached the negotiation phase with the US and its allies”.
“Before there are negotiations there should be a trust-building phase, which has not begun yet,” the statement on its website said.
A day earlier, a government spokesman in Kabul cautioned that no steps had been taken to start talks in Saudi Arabia.
“The Afghan government is very clear on talks, we have always preferred Saudi to Qatar,” Akim Hasher, head of the Government Media and Information Centre, told AFP.
“There is a possibility that the talks will take place in Saudi as well; Qatar is definitely not the only option.”
On Monday, an Afghan diplomat based in Riyadh said talks would be held in Saudi Arabia, but stopped short of announcing any date.
A member of the Taliban’s leadership council told AFP on Sunday that “the idea” that the Taliban should have a point of contact in Saudi Arabia was being pushed by the Pakistan and Afghan governments.
Analysts have warned that any move to open a second front in peace talks was being driven by fear in Kabul of being sidelined and could sow confusion in the tentative process of “talking about talks” to end the devastating conflict.
“When you have all these different players trying to open up talks with the Taliban it might look to the Taliban like a deliberate ploy, an attempt to divide and rule or to get some advantage,” said analyst Kate Clark.