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Asia-Pacific

Taliban, Karzai allies to attend Afghanistan meeting in France

media The scene of a suicide attack in Kabul last month Reuters/Omar Sobhani

The Taliban are to attend a conference near Paris along with supporters of President Hamid Karzai and peaceful opposition parties this week. The meeting comes after the Afghan government published a peace roadmap, which invites the rebels to take official positions if they give up violence.

The Taliban have agreed to send two of its members to the three-day conference, which starts on Wednesday, but say they will not be negotiating there, according to the Pakistani paper The News.

Dossier: AfPak news and analysis

They have nominated their senior negotiator, Maulvi Shahabuddin Dilawar, to lead the delegation, the paper says, but on Tuesday it was unclear whether he would be able to go because he was on a UN sanctions list.

The delegation would “convey their stance to the international community” at the meeting but not negotiate with the government, a Taliban statement declared

“Our representatives will only address the conference and as this conference is a research and scientific conference, therefore no agreements would be made with anybody and no talks would be held with occupying forces or the Kabul administration,” it said.

The Foundation for Strategic Research, the thinktank that is hosting the meeting, had no statement about it on its website on Tuesday and the conference will be at a secret location to the north of Paris and will not to be open to the press.

Karzai gave his green linght for the meeting, French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius told RFI on Sunday,  and Afghan presidential adviser Haji Din Mohammad and Masoom Stanekzai of the Afghan High Peace Council will be present, according to The News, as will opposition leaders Abdullah Abdullah and Yunus Qanooni and members of the second most important armed opposition group, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hizb-e-Islami.

Despite the Taliban’s protestations that no talks will take place, they did attend a conference in Japan earlier this year and the government met Pakistani representatives in Islamabad and Turkey recently.

On Monday the Afghan government published a “Peace Process Roadmap”, which invited the armed opposition to take part in the country’s institutions.

It outlines a four-point programme:

  1. Secure the collaboration of Pakistan, whose intelligence agencies have longstanding links to the Taliban, Hizb-e-Islami and other jihadi groups;
  2. Negotiations with the Taliban in Saudi Arabia next year with the support of Pakistan and the US;
  3. Ceasefire and transformation of the Taliban and other armed groups into political parties with possible participation in the “power structures of the state”, possibly including the cabinet and regional governorships;
  4. A peaceful end to the conflict in 2014.

The plan calls on the US and the UN to drop sanctions against some Taliban and other armd group leaders to help negotiations.

On Monday the UN Security Council renewed its sanctions but adapted it to allow those on the blacklist to travel outside Afghanistan for peace talks.

Pakistan last month freed a first batch of nine prisoners, although not the top figures Kabul wants released.

Although the roadmap says that the peace process "must respect the Afghan constitution and must not jeopardise the rights and freedoms [of] the citizens of Afghanistan, both men and women", rights groups and non-Pashtun parties are likely to be worried by the prospect of Taliban members holding high office.

The document also requires the rebels to break all links with Al Qaeda.

Analysts have already declared the plan too optimistic.

A group of alleged members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan went on trial in Paris on Monday, accused of raising funds for Al Qaeda-linked group.

France pulled the last of its combat troops out of Afghanistan on Saturday.

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