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Afghanistan, Taliban to Hold Two Days of Talks


FILE - A general view of the Taliban office in Doha, Qatar. Afghan and Taliban officials will hold two days of "reconciliation" talks in Qatar, the Gulf nation's state news agency reported, May 2, 2015.

A 20-member delegation from Afghanistan is headed to Qatar to hold two days of talks with Taliban representatives aimed at ending Afghanistan's long war.

Both sides sought to downplay expectations for the meetings.

Qatar's Foreign Ministry said Saturday that it was hosting "reconciliation" talks to help try to deliver "security, peace and stability to the Afghan people."

A Taliban statement said eight people would attend talks in Doha on behalf of the insurgents. However, they said the discussions "should not be misconstrued as peace or negotiation talks."

"It is worth mentioning that all participants of this conference attend in an individual capacity, no one participates as representatives for any government or party," the statement said. "Since this is a research conference, therefore, every participant gives their opinion on a range of issues."

Afghan presidential spokesman Ajmal Abidy said members of the country's High Peace Council would attend the talks in Doha in their "personal capacity only."

"They will meet face to face," Abidy said. "Nothing is going on. We have no expectations."

Previous efforts to open dialogue with the Taliban have collapsed.

The Islamist group opened an office in Qatar in June 2013 as the first move toward a possible peace deal, but the office shut a month later after enraging Afghanistan's then-president, Hamid Karzai, by styling itself as the unofficial embassy of a government-in-exile.

Current Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, elected last year, has pushed for peace talks with the Taliban, as U.S. and NATO forces ended their combat mission in the country at the start of this year. Casualties among Afghan security forces have spiked since then, adding urgency to Ghani's hoped-for peace talks.

Some information for this report came from AP.