Afghani president denies peace talks with Taliban started in Saudi Arabia
Afghanistan on Tuesday denied there had yet been any peace talks with Taliban mediated by Saudi Arabia, despite a meeting hosted by the kingdom last month between Afghan government officials and former Taliban leaders.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai made a direct appeal for peace to Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar a week ago and asked Saudi Arabia to help mediate in talks. But negotiations have yet to take place, Karzai's spokesman said. "Afghanistan has not been speaking to anyone with the help of the Saudis and our brothers in Saudi Arabia," presidential spokesman Humayun Hamidzada was quoted as saying by Reuters.
Karzai, he said, "has approached his Highness the Saudi king about playing a role ... in bringing peace to Afghanistan and he would welcome any effort from the Saudi side. "The government of Afghanistan is open to speaking with anyone in the opposition and the people who are fighting against the Afghan people and the Afghan government but no such talks have happened as of yet," Hamidzada said.
A former Taliban envoy said he and other former Taliban had travelled to Saudi Arabia last month and met King Abdullah and Afghan government officials but there had been no negotiations. "There were 15 to 16 people and we were seven or eight former Taliban and some government officials and we had a meeting with King Abdullah. In this meeting we did not talk or discuss any political issue, including Afghanistan," the former Taliban envoy to Pakistan, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, told Reuters.