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Hamid Karzai says 'secret' 3-way talks with US, Taliban have begun

Hamid Karzai said three-way talks between the US, the Afghan government and the Taliban had taken place, with the aim of finding a political settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan.

hamid karzai pakistan 2012 2 16Enlarge
Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan's President, arrives with Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani (2R) at the Prime Minister's House in Islamabad on February 16, 2012. (AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images)

Hamid Karzai said three-way talks between the US, the Afghan government and the Taliban had taken place, with the aim of finding a political settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan.

The Afghan president reportedly confirmed to the Wall Street Journal that the "secret" talks had begun, adding that he believed most Taliban were "definitively" interested in a peace settlement.

Publicly, the Taliban movement has denounced Karzai as a foreign puppet and refused to talk with his government.

However, Karzai — in excerpts of an interview printed outside the WSJ paywall — said such refusals were only "statements" and his government was in fact "talking to the senior-most of them. Contacts at different levels, official, personal, all sorts."

"There have been contacts between the US government and the Taliban, there have been contacts between the Afghan government and the Taliban, and there have been some contacts that we have made, all of us together, including the Taliban," Karzai reportedly said in the interview in his office at the Arg Palace in Kabul.

He added: "People in Afghanistan want peace, including the Taliban. They're also people like we all are. They have families, they have relatives, they have children, they are suffering a tough time.

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Aimal Faizi, spokesman for Karzai, said: "The meetings have been held in Afghanistan and abroad.

"Both face-to-face and telephone discussions have been held recently with senior Taliban officials."

According to London's The Telegraph, American officials have reportedly met with Taliban negotiators in Qatar, where the movement has said it wants to open an office to facilitate dialogue with Western countries. 

But, the paper wrote, diplomats had cautioned that the talks were in their earliest stages, with mistrust still evident on all sides.

And according to Fox News, while Karzai's remarks indicated progress in peace efforts as President Barack Obama began withdrawing US forces, US officials had cautioned against reading too much into the three-way talks.

Karzai — who also restated that he would not stand for re-election in 2014 — was in Pakistan on Thursday for a regional summit attended by Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Agence France-Presse reported.

Karzai’s office said his talks with Ahmadinejad, as well as Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, would focus on expanding relations, economic ties and “enhanced cooperation” on ending 10 years of war in Afghanistan.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/war/afghanistan-war/120216/hamid-karzai-taliban-talks-us-america