The Taliban agreed on Tuesday to set up an office in Qatar, giving the first major public sign the group could be ready for peace talks, The New York Times reported.
In an emailed statement from the Taliban, Zabihullah Mujahed, a spokesman for the organization, said the deal followed talks with Qatari officials and other “relevant parties,” Bloomberg reported. The statement also included the demand for Taliban detainees to be released from the American prison Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
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When the office would be opened or any specifics about the prisoners the Taliban wanted freed were not included in the email, The Times reported.
The United States and Germany have been pushing for the opening of the office in order to handle negotiations with the Taliban. Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai agreed to the office in Qatar just a few weeks ago.
The preliminary agreement was welcomed by the Afghan High Peace Council, which wants a negotiated end to the war, as “a gesture of good faith,” the BBC reported.
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American officials believe the opening of the Taliban office would be the single biggest step toward peace efforts, The Times reported. Until Tuesday, Western officials in Kabul questioned the Taliban’s willingness to talk. But Tuesday’s announcement should help erase those doubts.
“Publicly, I don’t think we could have asked for a stronger endorsement of the peace process from the other side,” said a Western diplomat in Kabul told The Times, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the talks. “But this isn’t even close to having a done deal. That’s going to take years, if it even happens.”