"The peace talks will start in a few days, and I want to reaffirm my commitment that the talks will be in the interests of the Afghan people and in line with the national interests; the people of Afghanistan will be informed about the talks," local Afghan media quoted Abdullah as telling his cabinet Monday.
According to the local ToloNews network, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani too had confirmed recently the upcoming talks during his meeting with the Afghan Senate Chairman Fazel Hadi Muslimyar.
The network further claimed that Ghani in his meeting with the Afghan High Peace Council, a government-backed committee formed to negotiate peace with the Taliban, said that Islamabad, Beijing, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Turkmenistan were all being considered as potential venues for the expected talks with the Taliban leadership. Local Afghan media further claimed that a high ranking Taliban delegation, led by Qari Din Mohammad, visited Islamabad to discuss the peace process. The Taliban were also said to have sent a delegation to Beijing to discuss potential talks.
The Afghan Taliban, who refer to themselves as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in their communications with the media, released a statement in multiple languages, including English, to deny all such reports about the talks.
“There have been many rumors swirling around in the media lately about the latest developments in Afghanistan and negotiations with the Kabul administration, these are nothing more than the views and assumptions of these outlets,” the Taliban said in its English-language statement released Tuesday.
The militant group, however, in the same breath also insisted that it was “a promoter of peace and security…(that) salvaged its nation from insecurity, displacement and the disintegration of the country.”
It also gave hope that the Afghan Taliban leadership remained interested in holding negotiations and said it would continue to explore all options, including military and political processes, to end what it calls the occupation of Afghanistan by foreign forces and establish an all Afghan-inclusive Islamic government.
“For attaining this purpose, the Islamic Emirate with the help of its believing Mujahid nation, has utilized both military and political mechanisms and will continue to do so in the future. Establishing contacts with world countries, visits, meetings, participation of Islamic Emirate in international conferences and opening a political office in Qatar, which was opposed by anti-peace parties, are clear examples of this,” it added.
Earlier, reports coming out from Pakistan suggested that the Pakistan military was pushing the Afghan Taliban leadership to initiate a dialogue with the Ghani-led Afghan administration. Last week, it was also reported that talks were held in Qatar between the U.S. and Taliban. However, the Taliban also denied those talks.
Sebghatullah Rasekh, a university lecturer based in Kabul, told AA it was possible that the Taliban wanted to keep mum about the talks to avert a possible division among the militants. When the Taliban office opened in Qatar in 2013, there were some elements within the militant group that reportedly opposed conceding any ground to the U.S. or the Afghan govenment during negotiations and instead called for deciding everything on the battlefield in Afghanistan.
In the past, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai too had opposed talks between the Taliban and the U.S. in Qatar. Many senior leaders of the Afghan Taliban continue to live in the Gulf state as official guests of the Qatari leadership, who see themselves as mediators between warring parties in the conflict.