The Afghan government and representatives of the Taliban denied on Saturday (May 22, 2010) any connection to reported peace talks on a Maldives island and said the gathering would not lead to anything substantive. The office of President Mohammed Nasheed of the Maldives announced Thursday (May 20, 2010) that his government had helped organize the talks in the hope of bringing peace to the region.
About 10 to 20 delegates, including members of the Afghan Parliament, were taking part in several days of discussions to explore an end to the war in Afghanistan, government officials confirmed. Among them were former members of the Taliban and of the mujahedeen party Hezb-i-Islami, whose leader, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, opposes foreign forces in Afghanistan, officials said.
The Afghan government said that it was not participating and that the discussions were not official peace talks. A government spokesman welcomed any effort toward peace, but said such talks should be held inside the country. The Taliban issued an e-mail statement dismissing as “baseless” a report that its representatives had participated in the talks. Those who took part in the name of the Taliban were in fact people who had already surrendered to the government of President Hamid Karzai and so were acting on behalf of the Afghan government, the statement said.
The Taliban reiterated its demand for the unconditional and immediate withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan. The gathering was organized by Homayoun Jarir, a son-in-law of Mr. Hekmatyar, who has acted as a go-between for the Afghan government and Mr. Hekmatyar. Among the parliamentarians present were Arsala Rahmani, a former minister of higher education in the Taliban government who has worked on bringing Taliban members to the government’s side.
Another parliamentarian, Khalid Farooqi, a former member of Mr. Hekmatyar’s party, said Iran had organized the talks, but there was no independent confirmation.
The State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley told The Associated Press in Washington, “We continue to support efforts by the Afghan government to open the door to those Taliban who abandon violence and respect human rights of their fellow citizens.”
---Rod Nordland and Sangar Rahimi contributed reporting