An Afghan peace negotiations team has arrived in Abu Dhabi, an official said Tuesday, a day after talks attended by US and Taliban representatives were held in the city aimed at finishing the 17-year conflict.
The team, led by chief negotiator Abdul Salam Rahimi, “arrived in Abu Dhabi to begin proximity dialogue with the Taliban delegation and to prepare for a face-to-face meeting between the two sides”, Afghan presidential spokesman Haroon Chakhansuri tweeted.
The 12-person team was first declare in November by President Ashraf Ghani as part of a diplomatic effort to bring the Taliban to the table for peace talks with the government in Kabul.
But the Taliban have not confirmed a meeting, and issued a statement on Monday reiterating their long-standing vow not to speak with Afghan officials.
In a new message released Tuesday the Taliban said they had held “preliminary talks” with the US State Department´s special envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, on Monday, with discussions to continue.
They also said they had held “extensive” meetings with officials from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and the UAE, repeating demands for international forces to be withdrawn from Afghanistan.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Pakistan were the only 3 countries to recognise the Taliban government during its five-year rule from 1996-2001.
The US didn’t confirm direct meetings between Khalilzad and the Taliban in Abu Dhabi.
Late Monday Washington said meetings were ongoing in the UAE city “to promote an intra-Afghan dialogue toward ending the conflict”, and that Khalilzad was in region.
Khalilzad “has in the past met, and will continue to meet with all interested parties, including the Taliban, to support a negotiated settlement to the conflict”, it ongoing.