30 Jan 2012

Afghan govt to meet Taliban in Saudi Arabia

5:58 am on 30 January 2012

The Afghan government is planning to meet the Taliban in Saudi Arabia in an attempt to jump-start peace talks.

Western and Afghan officials have told the BBC the meeting will be held in the coming weeks, before the establishment of a Taliban office in Qatar.

The Taliban has refused previously to recognise the government of President Hamid Karzai.

Senior officials in Kabul say the Taliban has agreed to the meeting. The Taliban previously insisted talks would be held only with the United States and other allies of the Kabul government.

The Daily Telegraph newspaper in Britain reports a number of Taliban officials are already in Qatar.

The delegation includes former deputy foreign minister Sher Mohammad Stanakzai, former ambassador to Saudi Arabia Shabudin Dilawari and Tayeb Agha, a close aide of Taliban leader Mullah Omar.

The BBC reports there are worries that the Taliban are using the office in Qatar to raise funds and as a ploy to buy time before foreign combat troops leave Afghanistan at the end of 2014.

There is also concern in the presidential palace in Kabul that the negotiations will be primarily focused on an exchange of prisoners between the US and the Taliban.