White House denies switching terms of Taliban talks

The White House on Thursday denied Taliban claims that it had changed the terms of an Afghan reconciliation dialogue, a move the militia said prompted it to walk out of talks.

"The terms have been as I've stated them on many occasions," said White House spokesman Jay Carney, citing a need for the Taliban to lay down its arms, renounce Al-Qaeda and abide by the Afghan constitution.

"We broadly support a process here that is essential to the long-term resolution to the conflict in Afghanistan," he said.

The Taliban said it had suspended contacts with the United States in Qatar, just days after a shooting spree by a lone US soldier left 16 Afghans dead.

"It was due to their alternating and ever-changing position that the Islamic Emirate was compelled to suspend all dialogue with the Americans," a statement posted on the Taliban website said.

Making no mention of Sunday's murders, the militia complained that a US representative presented a list of conditions at the last meeting "which were not only unacceptable but also in contradiction with the earlier agreed upon points."

The statement confirmed that Taliban representatives had held talks in Qatar with their US counterparts over a prisoner exchange as well as the opening of a liaison office in the Gulf state.

"We must categorically state that the real source of obstacle in talks was the shaky, erratic and vague standpoint of the Americans therefore all the responsibility for the halt also falls on their shoulders," it said.

But State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland took a more cautious approach.

"We have to see where this goes now. Whether they're (the remarks) representative of the entire group... whether, after feelings calm, there is a way to get back to" the reconciliation process, she said.

"We'll just have to see. This is a process that's had a lot of ups and downs."

by Laurent Lozano © 2012 AFP

Source: AFP
Date: Mar 15, 2012