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Afghan Taliban say informal talks took place in Norway
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An Afghan woman leaves the Karte Sakhi Shrine in Kabul on May 31, 2015. (AFP Photo/Farshad Usyan)

An Afghan woman leaves the Karte Sakhi Shrine in Kabul on May 31, 2015. (AFP Photo/Farshad Usyan)

Kabul, AP—Taliban representatives have concluded two days of meetings with a group of Afghan lawmakers and peace negotiators in the Norwegian capital Oslo, a Taliban spokesman and the Afghan president’s office said on Friday.

In an email to media organizations, the Taliban’s Zabihullah Mujahid said the discussions were informal and could not be categorized as “peace talks.”

An Afghan official told The Associated Press that talks took place on June 3 and 4 as part of a long-term Afghan initiative by the Norwegian government.

He said at least five female parliamentarians, including prominent women’s rights advocates Fawzia Koofi and Shukria Barakzai, had taken part, attending as “independent representatives” from parliament.

“They are not part of any [Afghan] government initiative, and were invited to an unofficial meeting, not as official delegates,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

Female members of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, a government body charged with negotiating an end to the war with the Taliban, had also attended in an unofficial capacity, the official said.

The office of President Ashraf Ghani issued a statement saying all Afghan citizens had the right to “work for peace where and whenever they want.”

“We appreciate these are non-government talks, they are not representing the government of Afghanistan,” the statement said.

The Norwegian Foreign Ministry confirmed the discussions had taken place between “Afghans of different political backgrounds . . . expressing their personal views.”

The meeting is the third face-to-face contact between Taliban and Afghan officials in recent months, though both sides have stressed their informality.

Ghani has prioritized bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table and ending their insurgency. He has promised transparency in all dealings with the insurgents, who have been fighting Kabul for 14 years—since being ousted from power by a US-led invasion in December 2001.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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