President Hamid Karzai will fly to Qatar within days to discuss peace with the Taliban and the opening of a political office for the group, Karzai’s office said Sunday.

Karzai will also use the visit to further Afghanistan-Qatar relations and meet the country’s officials, Karzai’s spokesman Aimal Faizi told TOLOnews.

The Taliban office has been planned for some time and was formally acknowledged as a step forward for peace negotiations during the UK, Afghanistan and Pakistan trilateral summit three months ago.

“President Karzai’s trip is the result of an invitation from the Qatari Emir and will involve discussions about mutual cooperation and the (Taliban) peace process”, Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman Janan Mosazai said at a press conference on Sunday.

Karzai’s trip comes after recent speeches where he accused the US of holding secret talks with the Taliban without Afghan involvement.

The new US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel, who was in Kabul at the time, dismissed Karzai’s accusations. And the Taliban has denied any talks with the US since last year.

The Challenges for the Peace Talks

Around 18 Taliban members who have shown a desire to negotiate with the Afghan government or join the peace process have recently been killed, Aimal Faizi had told TOLOnews last week.

“Over the past month, a number of Taliban who were wanting to join the peace process and had maintained relations with the Afghan government and High Peace Council were recently caught and put in prison, and about 17 or 18 of them were killed after being tortured,” said Aimal Faizi, blaming outsiders.

“The peace process is being sabotaged and it will continue to be [sabotaged]. Some countries do not want the process to be carried out,” he added.

The High Peace Council said the deaths and arrests are a sign of the disarray of the peace process both inside and outside Afghanistan, warning that the disorder will end up harming those causing it.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story said that Karzai will open the political office for the Taliban during his visit. This is not correct: he will only be discussing the plans to open the office.

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