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May 4, 2015 6:48 AM

Taliban 'welcome' Afghan peace efforts after Qatar talks

The Associated Press

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) Taliban militants who have been waging war on the Afghan government for more than a decade on Monday expressed a willingness to soften their position on a range of issues, an apparent shift that could eventually lead to peace talks.

The statement follows two days of informal discussions with Afghan government representatives in Qatar, at which both sides emphasized that peace talks were not on the agenda. It also came as a Taliban suicide bomber struck a bus carrying government workers, killing one person. The Taliban have ignored calls from President Ashraf Ghani for the group to join the government.

The latest Taliban statement, however, indicates flexibility on previously intractable issues such as the presence of the foreigners in Afghanistan and acceptance of a constitution.

"The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan once again as a policy clearly states that it does not want to harm others and also won't allow anyone to use Afghan soil against others," it said, using its formal name.

The statement said that "for the happiness of the nation" the group wants "cooperation in all sectors with all countries, including neighbors, and welcomes the efforts of anyone in bringing peace to Afghanistan."

The Taliban launched their annual warm-weather offensive on April 24 with an attack on the northern city of Kunduz, which took the government and military by surprise.

The Taliban also claimed responsibility for the suicide attack early Monday in Kabul, which killed at least one person and wounded 13.

Nevertheless, an Afghan official familiar with both sides said that "in spite of the fierce fighting and very bad situation here, the tone from both sides is positive."

Speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the negotiations, he said: "It is a good starting point. We will ask them to go ahead prudently and wisely to find a political solution rather than intensify military activity, which is causing the loss of innocent life."


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