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Kerry calls up Karzai as talks halted

Kerry calls up Karzai as talks halted
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US Secretary of State John Kerry called up Afghan President Hamid Karzai in a bid to defuse tensions over opening of a Taliban office in Qatar, an...

US Secretary of State John Kerry called up Afghan President Hamid Karzai in a bid to defuse tensions over opening of a Taliban office in Qatar, an Afghan spokesperson said Wednesday. Washington and Kabul had disagreed over the new Taliban office in Qatari capital city of Doha. Karzai is now expected to continue security talks with the US, which he had suspended in protest over the office, BBC reported. Karzai stated that the opening of the building contradicted earlier US security guarantees to Afghan government.

The Taliban premises in Qatar opened on Tuesday, on the same day that NATO handed over Afghanistan's security to the Afghan government. In a statement, Karzai on Wednesday said that the Taliban office was "totally contradictory to the guarantees made by the USA to Afghanistan". His officials said Karzai objected to a Taliban flag flying from the building, and also the name given to the building - the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. He said Afghan negotiators would stay away from the Qatar talks until "foreign powers" allowed the process to be run by Afghans - and also stay away from the latest round of security talks with the US on the American presence in Afghanistan after Nato leaves in 2014.

kerry hamid

But Karzai's spokesperson now says Kerry has informed the Afghans that the Taliban office is removing the flag and the sign designating the building as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan will be replaced by one saying Bureau of Peace Talks. Now a meeting will be held in Kabul Thursday to discuss the next steps.

US not to take back $7-bn military gear Rushing to wind down its role in Afghanistan by end of 2014, the US military has destroyed over $200 million worth of vehicles and other military equipment used by it in the war-torn country, in what has been described as "largest retrograde mission in history".

Ceasefire possible, say Taliban leader

Islamabad (PTI): A key Afghan Taliban negotiator has said a ceasefire may be on the agenda during talks with the United States in the Qatari capital of Doha, where the militants have opened a political office. Muhammad Naeem, who heads the Taliban's political office, said issues like a ceasefire could be discussed after the formal talks get underway. He indicated a major shift in the group's policy by hinting at possible talks with the government-backed Afghan High Peace Council.

"Our Qatar office is a second home for Afghans and we will listen to every Afghan. Every Afghan will be welcomed in our office," Naeem said when he was asked if the Taliban were willing to negotiate with the High Peace Council. Naeem, however, said Afghan authorities had not yet approached their office in Doha. The Taliban had pulled out of talks with the US early last year, accusing Washington of reneging on its promises.

Taliban talks not scheduled: US Washington (PTI): The US said it has not scheduled talks with the Taliban after reports that discussions with the Afghan rebel group could begin this week in Qatar. "Because we're working with the Afghans on what the next appropriate step is, there isn't a meeting. I know there were reports of it, but reports of a meeting being scheduled or on the books aren't accurate," State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters. While multiple media reports had said that the talks would be held on Thursday, the State Department had not confirmed it.

"If there's a role for the US to play in that, that's up to the Afghans to decide. We are in coordination and in discussion with the Afghans and the High Peace Council about how to move forward," Psaki said.

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