KABUL: Afghan authorities on Thursday named Saudi Arabia or Turkey as the best places to set up a Taliban liaison office abroad to enable peace talks to end a devastating 10-year insurgency.
President Hamid Karzai convened a top level meeting, the outcome of which is not binding, to discuss how to move forward with a peace process derailed by the assassination of his peace envoy, Burhanuddin Rabbani, in September.
The meeting came one day after Afghanistan announced it had recalled its ambassador to Qatar in protest at being left out of talks in which the United States discussed plans for the Taliban to open an address in Qatar.
“The participants of the meeting insisted that the address created for the opposition should be inside Afghanistan,” Karzai's office said.
“But if the situation does not allow this, the office should be established in an Islamic country, preferably in Saudi Arabia or Turkey.”
The participants also asserted that the fighting and violence against the people of Afghanistan should stop before the peace talks start.
It was also decided in the meeting that no other countries should interfere in this process without the agreement of Islamic republic of Afghanistan. The meeting at the presidential palace involved high-ranking government officials, including the first vice president and foreign minister, former Mujahedeen commanders, members of the peace council, and Rabbani's son, Salahuddin.
They agreed the Taliban address should be established “for the sole purpose of peace talks,” the statement added.
The US has discussed plans for the Taliban to open an address in Qatar by the end of the year to allow the West to begin formal peace talks.
“The ambassador has been recalled as a protest over why they did not allow the Afghan government into these talks,” a high ranking government official said Wednesday, speaking anonymously.
During a visit to Istanbul last December, Karzai said he would be happy if Turkey could provide a venue for the Taliban to open a representation office “to facilitate reconciliation.”
And in April, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that “Turkey will do its best if such a demand is made.” Turkey is Nato's sole Muslim-majority member.
The office of the self-styled Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan would be the first internationally recognised representation for the Taliban since it was ousted from power by the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
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