Taliban state preconditions for talks in informal Qatar meeting
The Afghan Taliban on Sunday reiterated their preconditions for the resumption of peace talks with Kabul, including their removal from international terror blacklists, at an informal meeting with lawmakers and activists in Doha.
Members of the Taliban's political office in Qatar began two days of discussions with an Afghan delegation Saturday as momentum grows for the start of a formal peace process.
The militant group emphasised a hardline stance on talks aimed at ending its 14-year insurgency, ruling out negotiations until Taliban preconditions were met.
"Before any official talks, we want names of our mujahedeen to be removed from UN and US blacklists and all bounties on their heads be cancelled," Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said, listing the group's demands at the Qatar conference.
"We also want our political office in Doha to be officially reopened."
The Taliban opened an office in Qatar in June 2013 as a first move towards a possible peace deal.
But it shut a month later after enraging the then Afghan president Hamid Karzai by styling itself as the unofficial embassy for a government-in-exile.
Following the end of the two-day conference, the Taliban's spokesman in Qatar, Mohamed Naeem, called the talks "positive".
"I can say that there are several points (that) have been agreed upon," he told AFP.
"Firstly, removing foreign troops, but how that could be implemented has not been discussed.
"Also, everyone agreed on the establishment of an independent Islamic regime and also the majority of the participants agreed to have a formal title of the Islamic Emirate (of Afghanistan)."
|"We...want our political office in Doha to be officially reopened."
—Zabiullah Mujahid, Taliban spokesman
"No military solution"
The High Peace Council - the government body tasked with negotiating with the Taliban - has urged the militants to resume talks without preconditions.
"Any preconditions could further delay the reconciliation process," HPC official Aminuddin Muzaffari told AFP.
Afghan government officials did not attend the meeting in the Gulf emirate, which was organised by Pugwash Conferences, an international group that promotes conflict resolution.
Professor Paolo Cotta-Ramusino, the head of Pugwash, said afterwards there could be "no military solution" to Afghanistan's problems.
The Doha talks marked a rare direct interaction between the Taliban and Afghan lawmakers and civil society members amid an international push to revive talks.
However, despite a push to restart talks, the Taliban have ramped up violence across Afghanistan.
Seven employees of popular Afghan TV channel TOLO were killed on Wednesday when a Taliban car bomber rammed into their minibus in Kabul, just months after the militants declared the network a legitimate "military target".
At least 25 other people were wounded in the bombing near the Russian embassy in downtown Kabul, in the first direct assault on an Afghan media organisation since the Taliban were ousted from power in 2001.