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New Taliban talks planned in Saudi Arabia as Afghan movement rejects Kabul peace offer

The Taliban have held talks with Russian and US officials [Getty]

Date of publication: 30 December, 2018

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The Taliban have dismissed the Afghan government's olive branch but says it will meet US officials next month in Saudi Arabia.
The Taliban have rejected a peace offer from the Afghan government, the group has said, but is still willing to meet with US officials next month.

A leading Taliban official told Reuters that talks with US officials held in Abu Dhabi in December will continue in January in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE were among a handful of countries to recognise the Taliban government, when the movement held much of Afghanistan, including Kabul, in the late 1990s.

"We will meet the US officials in Saudi Arabia in January next year and we will start our talks that remained incomplete in Abu Dhabi," a member of the Taliban's decision-making Leadership Council told Reuters.

"However, we have made it clear to all the stakeholders that we will not talk to the Afghan government."

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid also confirmed that the Afghan militia movement would not speak with Kabul government, which they view as a US puppet.

The Taliban rejects speaking to the Afghan government as they believe real power lies with Washington.

Kabul, however, insists that ultimately a peace deal must involve the Afghan government and has made efforts to establish a direct line with the Taliban.

"Talks should be Afghan-led and Afghan-owned," an aide of President Ashraf Ghani told the news agency. "It is important that the Taliban acknowledge this fact."

Despite this, the US has pushed on with direct talks with the Taliban, led from the Washington side by Zalmay Khalilzad.

Meetings between the two sides have taken place in Qatar, where the Taliban has a political office, but further talks were held in Abu Dhabi this month.

The US hopes to strike a truce with the Taliban in time for next year's presidential elections.

US President Donald Trump is reportedly planning to pull US troops out of Afghanistan, despite a spike in violence from Taliban and Islamic State group insurgents.

The Taliban claim to control 70 percent of Afghanistan's territories, although NATO believe it is around a half of the country.

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