Afghan President Karzai backs Taliban Qatar office plan

Arrested Taliban suspects in Jalalabad, Nangarhar province (July 2011) Negotiating with the Taliban is thought to be the best way to end the decade-long conflict

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said he will back the opening of a Taliban liaison office in Qatar to try to help consolidate the peace process.

It is the first time he has given public support to the US plan to create a Taliban base in the Gulf state, in which future talks could be held.

He previously rejected the idea, angry that the US and Germany had discussed potential locations without him.

The Taliban have so far made no official comment on the proposal.

The US, Germany and other countries with a stake in the decade-long war against the Taliban have increasingly been seeking a political end to the conflict.

They have argued that establishing an "address" outside the immediate region for reconciliation talks is the best way to speed up the peace process.

Mistrust

Earlier this month, Kabul recalled its ambassador from the Qatari capital, Doha, saying the Qataris had been discussing the issue of an office in detail with the Americans and the Germans "without keeping the Afghan government fully in the picture".

But in a statement on Tuesday, Mr Karzai said that while he preferred the idea of Turkey or Saudi Arabia hosting the office, if the Americans wanted to locate it in Doha he would agree.

"Having an exact address for the opposition [is a condition] for practical steps toward starting negotiations," said a statement from the presidential palace.

Kabul has repeatedly stressed that it will not accept any foreign intervention in negotiations with the Taliban.

Efforts to hold talks have been hit by a string of setbacks, including the assassination in September of Burhannudin Rabbani, the head of the Afghan High Peace Council which had been liaising with the militant group.

The Taliban denied being responsible, but the attack added to the sense of mistrust.

US and Afghan officials have also stressed that Pakistan - where the Taliban's leadership are believed to be based - must be involved in the process.

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