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Taliban: 'Unaware' of Upcoming Peace Talks

by Ayaz Gul February 24, 2016

Afghanistan's Taliban says it is unaware of upcoming peace talks with the Kabul government, reiterating no such move can succeed until foreign forces completely withdraw and Sharia (Islamic system) is enforced in the country.

Tuesday, a four-nation group working for Afghan peace invited all Taliban and other groups to participate through their authorized representatives in the first round of direct peace talks with the Afghan government by the first week of March in Pakistan.

A spokesman for the Taliban's so-called political office in Qatar, Mohammad Naeem, told VOA he has seen media reports about possible peace talks with the Afghan government, but said the insurgent group was unaware of any such plans.

"We do not have any information in this regard so far. So to say anything will be premature," Naeem asserted.

He said "the presence of foreign invaders" in the country was "the real issue" and there could be no resolution to the Afghan problem unless all foreign troops withdrew and an "Islamic system" was enforced in Afghanistan.

"These are not conditions, but are ground realities and facts, and without addressing them problems could not be solved. Unless there is a determination [by the other side] to solve them difficulties will increase and not decrease," said the spokesman.

Afghan, Pakistani, U.S. and Chinese diplomats have been holding regular meetings since the beginning of the year to try to arrange Afghan peace talks.

Their meeting Tuesday Kabul ended with "great hopes" and "optimism" that a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Afghanistan was in sight, a Pakistani official with direct knowledge of the discussions told VOA.

Meanwhile, speaking in Kabul Wednesday, Afghan national security adviser Hanif Atmar urged all insurgent groups take the opportunity to attend the upcoming peace talks with the government.

"But if they do not use this opportunity we are determined to take both defensive and security actions against them," he warned.

Atmar went on to assert that in Tuesday's four-way talks in Kabul, participating nations vowed to take joint steps, including military means against insurgent groups who refuse to join the Afghan peace process and continue with their violent acts against the people of Afghanistan.

The national security adviser was speaking in the Afghan capital after receiving 10,000-automatic rifles and millions of rounds of ammunition as a gift from Russia. He explained the guns and ammunition were provided under an existing bilateral agreement between Kabul and and Moscow.

The donation of weapons is the first Russian military assistance to Kabul and another sign of Moscow's deepening involvement in Afghanistan.

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