Afghan president to visit Qatar

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai speaks during an event marking last week's World Environment Day, in Kabul Afghanistan, Saturday, June 8, 2013. The annual World Environment Day is run by the United Nations Environment Program and is traditionally celebrated on June 5 to raise global awareness of the need to take positive environmental action. (AP Photo/Ahmad Jamshid)

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghan President Hamid Karzai was to visit Qatar on Sunday to discuss his country's stalled peace process and the possible opening of a Taliban office in the Gulf state, officials said.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Janan Mosazai said Karzai will not hold any talks with Taliban representatives currently in Qatar.

He will hold meetings with Qatari officials on the sidelines of an annual conference on relations between the United States and the Muslim world.

"As we have already said, any official negotiations regarding peace with the Taliban can only take place between the high-ranking Taliban representatives and the High Peace Council of Afghanistan," Mosazai told reporters.

Karzai's office said he was accompanied by senior ministers and advisers.

"During this visit, the President will meet with Qatari officials to discuss Afghanistan's peace process and bilateral relations between the two countries," his office said in a statement.

Both Afghanistan and the United States support the opening of a Taliban political office in Qatar as part of an effort to rekindle talks with the insurgent group, which has been waging war against the government and U.S.-led military coalition for nearly 12 years.

Afghanistan has said all talks must be carried out by the peace council, a group formed by President Hamid Karzai to try and find ways to initiate negotiations with the insurgents.

The council has so far failed to start any form of negotiations with the Taliban since U.S.-initiated peace talks collapsed last year. It is made up of influential Afghans, former Taliban and tribal elders from all Afghan ethnic groups.

The Taliban have met representatives of about 30 countries, participated in international forums in Tokyo and France, and recently visited Iran — a traditional enemy. But they have steadfastly refused to talk to the peace council or Karzai's representatives, saying they represent a "puppet" government.

Mosazai reiterated the Afghan government's support for the opening of a Taliban office in Qatar, but "only under the conditions and principles which would be acceptable for the Afghan people."

He would not comment on the recent trip to Iran by Taliban representatives.

"Unfortunately the Taliban have very good relations with foreign countries, but they have enmity with the Afghan people, they are killing Afghan people while they are carrying out terrorist attacks," Mosazai said.