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Taliban confirm attending Norway forum but reject talks

KABUL: Taliban on Tuesday confirmed the group was attending a peace forum in Norway but played down reports of holding talks with representatives of the Afghan government.

The Oslo Forum 2015– kicking off today– is co-hosted by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue.

The Forum is a unique opportunity for senior conflict mediators, high-level decision makers and other major actors in peace processes to share their experiences, identify challenges and reflect on their own and others’ practice in a discreet setting and informal atmosphere.

The Afghan government is represented by a six-member delegation, including Deputy CEO Mohammad Muhaqiq and deputy foreign minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai.

A government source on Monday told Pajhwok Afghan News the Afghan delegation would hold face-to-face talks with the Taliban representatives.

But Zabihullah Mujahid, Taliban spokesman, said in an email the group’s representatives would not hold peace talks with officials of Afghan government.

He added a three-member delegation of the group headed by Mohammad Tayeb Agha would participate in the Forum.

According to the group’s spokesman, Taliban’s representatives were officially invited by the Norwegian government and rejected reports that the aim of the conference was head to head talks between Afghan government and the group.

A government official wishing not to be named told Pajhwok Afghan News on Monday the president tasked Khalil Karzai to talk directly about peace with Taliban.

Former vice president Yonus Qanoni, former commerce minister Dr. Anwar-ul-Haq Ahadi, former minister of women affairs Hassan Bano Ghazanfar and high peace council member Farhadullah Farhad are part of government team.

Taliban have increased their presence in several regional and international level conferences in recent past. Taliban delegation showed their presence in Pugwash meeting in Qatar followed by meeting with High Peace Council (HPC) in China and later a meeting with Afghan women representatives in Norway.

The last meeting between Afghan officials and Taliban delegation was held in Dubai where they met with several officials.

Mohammad Hassan Haqyar, a political analyst, said regarding these meeting that Taliban wanted to convey the messages through participation in such meetings that they believed the negotiations and table talks.

He said that Taliban wanted to convey their message to the international community that they agreed to talk on women rights and other political affairs. Such meetings would turn fruitful and provide opportunities to know each other view point, he added. (PAN)

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