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Taliban Denies Attending Afghan Peace Talks in Turkey

FILE - A general view of the Taliban Afghanistan Political Office in Doha, June 18, 2013.
FILE - A general view of the Taliban Afghanistan Political Office in Doha, June 18, 2013.

Afghanistan government negotiators and Taliban officials have reportedly opened “unofficial” talks in Turkey to discuss “mechanisms” that could pave the ground for initiating a formal peace dialogue.

Participants of the meeting have told Afghan media the talks have been arranged in cooperation with the Turkish government.

Officials from the Taliban’s Qatar-based office and other insurgent groups are said to be among the attendees. The Afghan government has not commented on the discussions.

But a Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, has rejected the reports about the group's participation in talks in Turkey.

The reported peace meeting in Turkey comes as a U.N. Security Council delegation is in Kabul holding talks with Afghan leaders on security and political issues in the war-torn country. Government officials and the visiting U.N. delegation have been tight lipped about the ongoing meetings.

Authorities have tightened security in the embattled Afghan capital and diverted traffic in key roads to safeguard movements of the 15-member delegation.

The visit comes as security around Afghanistan has deteriorated, with government forces and Taliban insurgents engaged in staging battlefield operations and guerrilla attacks.

Local Politics also an issue

Afghan political tensions are also running high as the governor of the northern Balkh province has refused to quit office, in defiance of a presidential decree that ousted him a month ago and appointed his successor.

Attah Muhammad Noor, a powerful regional political figure, has been ruling the province for more than 13 years and insists President Ashraf Ghani has not authority to dismiss him.

Noor maintains his Jamiat-e-Islami party is a key member of the central coalition government and had put forward certain demands for Ghani to meet before he steps down from the governor’s office.

The political stand off has negatively impacted an already struggling Afghan economy, according to the business community, sparking historic devaluation of the local currency.

The Afghan government is to host an international meeting early next month in which it is expected to present its "comprehensive strategy" for promoting peace talks with armed groups fighting Afghan forces and their international backers.