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Taliban team in Qatar for negotiations with US

28 August, 2012

ISLAMABAD: Taliban negotiating team has returned to Qatar for talks with the US after consulting with key Shura members to finalise an agenda of negotiations with Washington, Taliban sources said on Monday.

Members of the negotiating team; Shahabuddin Dilawar, ambassador in Pakistan during Taliban's regime, Jan Muhammad Madni, former first secretary in Afghan embassy in UAE, and their former diplomat in Pakistan, Sohail Shaheen, interacted with Taliban Shura and returned to Qatar, the sources said.

A senior Taliban member said that negotiations were to start last month, but hit snags.

Some sources claimed that the Taliban negotiators met Abdul Qayyum Zakir, Taliban Shura chief, and his deputy Akhtar Muhammad Mansoor as well as Amir Khan Mutaqi, head of the Information and Culture Council.

However, head of the negotiating team Tayyab Agha stayed in Qatar and never visited Afghanistan or the region due to some reasons.

The backdoor diplomacy between the US and Taliban was going on after Taliban suspended talks in mid-March in Qatar, but Taliban say Washington is dragging feet on its promises.

At present there is no direct contact between the US and Taliban though efforts are afoot to resume the talks. Though publicly the direct contact between the two sides was denied once the negotiation process was suspended, but Taliban sources said that there was no third party between Taliban and the US which was indirectly sustaining contacts between the two parties.

Taliban spokesman neither denied nor confirmed that whether any step was being taken for negotiations between the two sides.

Earlier, Michael Steiner, Germany's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, moderated the talks.

Four rounds of talks have been held between the US and Taliban in Germany and Doha. The negotiations were once stopped after the US had revealed the information to the American media. And this year again, Taliban suspended after their Spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that the US is confused on the peace process, therefore, talks are suspended.

The US and Taliban agreed to release key militants leaders from Guantanamo prison as a first step of confidence building measures on part of Washington but their release was delayed, causing the suspension of negotiation process.

"This time, release of the Taliban leaders is on the top of the agenda but other points of the agenda are yet to be set," said the sources. The ground realities would be considered in setting the agenda.

The US officials were not happy over break in the talks and appealed for resumption of the negotiations in Qatar.

The urge of Washington for talks with the Taliban intensified after NATO announced to quit Afghanistan after 2014.

The US has also started considering different options, including releasing Taliban members for paving ways to successful talks.

End.

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