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US-Taliban peace talks still uncertain

After a diplomatic row last week over the Taliban's new office in Qatar stalled peace talks, the State Department hopes to get negotiations "back on track."

Taliban Qatar officeEnlarge
Guests arrive for the opening ceremony of the new Taliban political office in Doha on June 18, 2013. (Faisal Al-Timmi/AFP/Getty Images)

US and Afghanistan officials await word from the Taliban on possible future negotiations, after a diplomatic row last week over the militant group's new office in Qatar halted peace talks before they could begin.

US State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell told reporters Monday there was still a chance to bring everyone to the table. However, a new date for talks has not been set and US special envoy James Dobbins has yet to meet with Taliban representatives.

"We want to see if we can get it back on track," Ventrell said. "We don't know whether that's possible."

Dobbins said the group, in trying to score political points, had miscalculated when they raised the old Taliban government flag over the new office, which they called the "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan." The move, which likened the office to a legitimate embassy, caused Afghanistan's government to pull out of the talks. 

"There was a combination of misunderstandings and a desire on the Taliban's part to score a propaganda advance, and they seem to have overplayed their hand and as a result probably lost rather than gained ground," Dobbins said.

On Saturday, in a joint press conference with Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, Secretary of State John Kerry said that if the peace talks didn't get moving soon, the Taliban's office in Qatar may be shut down.

"If there is not a decision to move forward by the Taliban in short order, then we may have to consider whether or not the office has to be closed," Kerry said

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/130624/us-taliban-peace-talks-still-uncertain