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Pakistan welcomes opening of Taliban office


Pakistan on Tuesday welcomed the Taliban's decision to open an office in Qatar and the subsequent announcement by the US that it will launch talks with the insurgents this week.

The Islamic militia opened a political office in the Qatari capital of Doha with the aim of opening dialogue with the international community and Afghan groups.

The United States immediately welcomed the decision and senior officials said they hoped to meet the Taliban shortly, despite the raft of differences between the two sides.

"Pakistan welcomes the announcement of the opening of a Taliban office in Doha for the purpose of bringing peace to Afghanistan and the region," Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry said in a statement.

"Pakistan also welcomes the start of direct peace talks between the US and the Taliban."

The Taliban, which has been fighting against US-led NATO troops and the Afghan government for 12 years, broke off contact with the Americans last year and has refused to negotiate with Kabul.

On Tuesday Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told AFP the office was intended "to open dialogue between the Taliban and the world".

Chaudhry said Pakistan has long called for an early end to the Afghan war in order to reach a peaceful solution.

"Pakistan is ready to continue to facilitate the process to achieve lasting peace in Afghanistan in accordance with the wishes of the Afghan people," he said.

Senior US officials announced they will begin talks with the Taliban this week.

"I think the US will have its first formal meeting with the Taliban, and the first meeting with the Taliban for several years, in a couple of days in Doha," a US official told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity.