By Abdul Qadir Sediqi
KABUL (Reuters) – China is organising talks among Afghanistan’s rival factions as part of efforts to end years of war after negotiations between the Taliban and the United States on the withdrawal of U.S. forces broke down.
China, which shares a short border with Afghanistan, has been trying to encourage peace efforts and last month a Taliban delegation visited Beijing for talks with government officials.
“China has invited a delegation … to participate in the intra-Afghan dialogue,” a Taliban spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, said in a post on Twitter late on Tuesday.
The so-called intra-Afghan dialogue is aimed at reconciliation between Afghanistan’s warring parties and has been running parallel to the talks between the insurgents and the United States.
Last month, U.S. President Donald Trump halted the talks with the Taliban aimed at striking a deal for U.S. and other foreign troops to withdraw in exchange for Taliban security guarantees, after the militants carried out a bomb attack in Kabul that killed 12 people, including a U.S. soldier.
The United States has been hoping that its deal with the Taliban would pave the way for a ceasefire and power-sharing talks between the Afghan government and the insurgents.
The Taliban have refused to talk to the government, denouncing it a U.S. puppet, but government officials have taken part in the intra-Afghan dialogue as private citizens.
Shaheen said the talks in China would be held on that basis.
“All participants will be attending the meeting in their personal capacity and they will share their personal opinions for solving the Afghan issue,” he said.
He did not give a date for the talks and officials at China’s embassy in Kabul were not available for comment.
The Afghan government was aware of China’s plan to host talks but it could not comment at this stage, said deputy foreign minister, Idress Zaman.
A spokesman for former Afghan president Hamid Karzai, who attended intra-Afghan talks in Russia in February, said Karzai’s office was aware of China’s plan for talks and Karzai would attend if invited.
A 60-strong delegation of Afghans, including government officials and representatives of civil society groups, held a second round of intra-Afghan talks with the Taliban in July in Qatar.
(Editing by Robert Birsel, Raju Gopalakrishnan)