Taliban ready to open political office: negotiator

The Taliban are willing to open an office in an Islamic country, a step towards holding face-to-face peace talks with Afghanistan, a member of the Afghan government's team of negotiators with the group said on Sunday. 

After a series of failed attempts at talks by Afghans and their Western allies, in November Afghan President Hamid Karzai ruled out negotiations with the Taliban until the insurgent group had an address at which he could contact them.   

"What we heard from senior Taliban commanders and their relatives, is they agreed on a political office," Arsala Rahmani, a senior member of Afghanistan's High Peace Council told Reuters on Sunday. "It would be better to establish one inside Afghanistan if the situation allows." 

"We agree and have always called for a political address for the Taliban either in Qatar, Turkey, Saudi Arabia or any Islamic countries and it is in our interest," Rahmani said. 

Last week, Afghanistan recalled its ambassador to Qatar hours after an Indian newspaper reported that arrangements had been put in place for a Taliban office in the Gulf state. 

The report caused worry in Kabul that the Afghan government would be excluded from the peace process were another country used as a the base for talks.  

The United States wants to seek a political settlement to an expensive, decade-long war, but Afghan officials insist that they must lead the process.   

"Establishment of a political address of an office for the Taliban is very crucial and will have a great impact on the peace process," Rahmani said. 

"Since the Taliban have no address, it is important to create a political address where we could talk about peace agendas face to face," he said. 

The Taliban have not commented on the possibility of their opening an office. 

The High Peace Council was established by President Hamid Karzai in 2010 to build contacts with the Taliban, and ultimately to find a political settlement to the war. 

The Taliban have rejected any peace deal and in September a Taliban suicide bomber killed Burhanuddin Rabbani, head of the government peace council. 

Afghanistan accuses Pakistan of supporting the Taliban, and has said that the Rabbani's killer was sent from the Pakistani city of Quetta. Karzai has said that "until we have an address for the Taliban" he would talk only to Pakistan.  

Analysts say Pakistan, worried about growing influence of old rival Indian in Afghanistan, sees the Taliban as its best tool to try to secure a pro-Pakistani government in Kabul after foreign forces withdraw. 

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