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Afghan peace talks in limbo

June 20, 2013

The US has welcomed Qatar's decision to remove a controversial nameplate from the Taliban's new office. The diplomatic spat had threatened to derail peace efforts after the Afghan president pulled out of negotiations.

Guests arrive for the opening ceremony of the new Taliban political office in Doha, Qatar on June 18, 2013. AFP PHOTO / FAISAL AL-TIMIMI
Image: AFP/Getty Images

The US deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Rosemary DiCarlo told the Security Council on Thursday that her country was "pleased" at Qatar's decision to remove the controversial nameplate from the Taliban's office in the country and revert to calling the building the "Political Office of the Afghan Taliban."

Peace talks were disrupted Wednesday after Afghan President Hamid Karzai canceled a planned delegation to the Taliban's new Qatar office (pictured above) because he said the US had broken a commitment that it would not recognize the office as an embassy or government-in-exile.

On Tuesday the office's staff had raised a Taliban flag at the Qatar office and a nameplate attached to the building read: "Political Office of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan." This is how the Taliban referred to Afghanistan when it controlled the country from 1996 to 2001.

The nameplate was reportedly removed on Thursday morning, while the flag was lowered to a height not visible from the street.

Promoting peace

The Qatar office was opened with the purpose of holding talks between the Karzai-appointed High Peace Council and Taliban representatives.

DiCarlo said the US supported the opening of the office for the purpose of making peace, adding that "while there may be bumps in the road, the fact that the parties have an opportunity to talk and discuss Afghanistan's future is very important."

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters in Brussels on Thursday that peace talks could "reinforce security gains and further contribute to Afghanistan's long-term security and unity."

"I hope such talks will start sooner, rather than later," he added.

De Maiziere in Afghanistan

Rasmussen also said he was "confident" the US and Afghanistan would reach a long-term security agreement. The bilateral deal would set out the number of US troops and bases to remain in Afghanistan after the scheduled withdrawal of NATO-led combat forces in 2014.

German Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere, however, warned that if the two sides did not reach an agreement, Germany may scrap plans to keep soldiers in the country as trainers and advisers after their deployment ends next year.

De Maiziere was in Afghanistan to meet with German troops as part of his 12th visit to the country since taking office two and a half years ago.

dr/pfd (dpa, AP, Reuters, AFP)