Afghan official says that government delegation are in direct talks with Taliban in Pakistan



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KABUL, Afghanistan — In an unprecedented step after more than a decade of hostility, Afghan government officials are meeting in Pakistan with representatives of the Taliban, according to Afghan and Pakistani officials.

An official from the Afghan government's high peace council told The Associated Press that the meeting took place Tuesday in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. However an official with the Pakistani Foreign Ministry said that two days of talks would begin on Wednesday.

Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media. The discrepancy in the timing could not immediately be reconciled, however the officials both confirm that Afghan government representatives, including Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Karzai, had travelled to Pakistan for the meeting.

The talks would be the first formal face-to-face meetings between the two sides since the Taliban was ousted from power in 2001 by a U.S.-led coalition invasion. Taliban and government representatives have met informally in the past, through a recent series of encounters hosted by Qatar and Norway. But the direct and semi-public nature of this week's talks indicates significant potential progress in those efforts.

New Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has made it a public priority to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.

The Pakistani Foreign Ministry official said the meetings would take place at a secret location, and that no public statements would be issued unless there were significant developments.


Associated Press writer Asif Shahzad in Islamabad contributed to this report.

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