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Pompeo ready to attend Doha talks if there’s initial progress

Updated March 06, 2019

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The fifth round of US-Taliban talks resumed in Doha this week after a two-day break for consultations. — AFP/File
The fifth round of US-Taliban talks resumed in Doha this week after a two-day break for consultations. — AFP/File

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday he was ready to join the talks between Washington and Taliban representatives in Doha, Qatar, in a couple of weeks if there was sufficient progress in the deliberations.

The fifth round of US-Taliban talks resumed in Doha this week after a two-day break for consultations on issues relevant to the negotiations.

“I am hoping he [Zalmay Khalilzad] makes enough progress and I can travel there in a couple of weeks and help move it along a little bit myself,” Mr Pompeo said at a farmers meeting in Iowa.

Ambassador Khalilzad is leading the US team in the talks while Mullah Baradar heads the Taliban side.

During the break, the US side consulted the Afghan government as the Taliban have refused to hold direct talks with Kabul.

The talks are focused on a draft agreement, which includes the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan and an assurance from Taliban that they will not allow “terrorists” to use Afghan soil against other nations.

Mr Pompeo acknowledged the Doha talks were “incredibly complicated”, but the US was trying to “find pockets” of “sufficient agreement” for everyone to move forward with.

“I have a team on the ground right now trying to negotiate with the Taliban terrorists in Afghanistan, trying to find a way to achieve an Afghanistan that’s not at war, that’s not engaged in violence, that doesn’t present a threat to the United States of America,” he said when asked how he negotiated with those who had significant disagreements with the US.

“That is a complicated problem, and if you add in the regional players — Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, China, Russia, all who have an interest in Afghanistan — it’s an incredibly complicated negotiation,” he added.

Published in Dawn, March 6th, 2019