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Afghan officials meet Taliban in Istanbul?

Updated January 15, 2018

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KARACHI: Officials of the Afgha­n government reportedly held an “unofficial” meeting with Taliban’s representatives in Istanbul on Sunday and discussed with them “mechanisms” that could pave the way for initiating a formal peace dialogue.

According to the voanews.com and some other news outlets, the meeting was arranged in cooperation with the Turkish government.

They said representatives of Taliban’s office in Qatar and members of some other militant groups, including Hizb-i-Islami Afghanistan (HIA), attended the meeting.

A spokesperson for the HIA, Mohammad Nadar Afghan, reportedly confirmed participation of his group’s representatives in the meeting. But Taliban spokesperson Zabih­ullah Mujahid rejected the reports about his group’s participation in the Istanbul meeting.

“We have neither sent any delegation nor can any participant represent the Islamic Emirate. Such fake processes are the work of secret agencies and constitute hostile acts against the ongoing jihad,” he was quoted by a news outlet as saying.

There has been no official comment, however, from the Afghan government on the reported meeting.

The Istanbul meeting was held at a time when a United Nations Security Council delegation is in Kabul to hold talks with Afghan leaders on security and political issues in the war-torn country.

An Afghan media group reported on Saturday that an intra-Afghan peace dialogue would be held in Istanbul to find a negotiated end to the decades-long conflict in Afghanistan.

There are also reports that the Turkish government has urged the Taliban to open their political office in the country.

Published in Dawn, January 15th, 2018