President Hamid Karzai Saturday left Kabul to travel to Qatar where he is expected to discuss plans to negotiate with the Taliban including opening a political office for the group.
Karzai will arrive in Qatar’s capital Doha and will meet with Qatari officials today, Karzai’s office said in a statement Saturday.
It comes after Afghan diplomats in Qatar claimed that the Taliban will send negotiators to the Gulf nation who are expected to be open to a deal.
According to Qatar’s daily newspaper The Gulf Times, the diplomats said that they understand the Taliban is aiming to send moderate negotiators instead of Tayeb Agha, the close aide to Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar.
The diplomats said that the move is seen as a breakthrough to hold direct negotiations with Afghanistan’s government.
This was denied by Taliban loyalists who said the claim was baseless.
The Taliban has never agreed to talks with the Karzai regime in the past, referring to it as a puppet government.
The trip comes amid heightened tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan over their relationship with the insurgents. Both countries have recently accused the other of supporting the Taliban insurgency in some form in order to foment unrest in the neighbouring country.
Relations had improved between the countries earlier this year, building up to a three-way summit hosted by Britain in February and a visit of the High Peace Council to Islamabad.
But Karzai’s spokesman said last week that the Pakistan had abandoned the peace process and imposed “impossible” pre-conditions on any further discussions that would encourage the Taliban to lay down their weapons.
“Things were going well up to the trilateral [summit] in Britain, so we were hopeful, but soon it became clear that Pakistan had changed its position and the peace process was no longer its priority,” Aimal Faizi said.
“They demanded we cut all ties to India, send army officers to Pakistan for training, and sign a strategic partnership.”
Pakistan rejected these claims, with the Foreign Office saying on Friday: “Pakistan is whole-heartedly supporting and facilitating the peace process without any conditions or preference for any particular group or party.”