Kabul, Taliban Negotiators Meet in Qatar as Afghan Fighting Rages
Story Code : 943904
The two sides have been meeting on and off for months in the Qatari capital, but the talks have lost momentum as the insurgents have made battlefield gains.
Several high-ranking officials, including former president Hamid Karzai and former chief executive Abdullah Abdullah, gathered in a luxury hotel on Saturday after morning prayers.
They were joined by negotiators from the Taliban's political office in Doha.
"The high level delegation is here to talk to both sides, guide them and support the [government] negotiating team in terms of speeding up the talks and have progress," said Najia Anwari, the spokeswoman for the Afghan government negotiating team in Doha.
"We expect that it [will] speed the talks and... in a short time, both sides will reach a result and we will witness a durable and dignified peace in Afghanistan," she told AFP.
The Taliban have capitalized on the last stages of the withdrawal of US and other foreign troops from Afghanistan to launch a series of lightning offensives across the country.
"We are ready for dialogue, for talks and negotiations, and our priority is to solve the problems through dialogue," Taliban spokesman Muhamad Naeem told the Al Jazeera broadcaster ahead of Saturday's talks.
"The other side must have a true and sincere will to end the problems."
Talks between the government and the Taliban side led by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar began with Koranic recitations, Naeem tweeted Saturday.
Afghan forces clashed Friday with Taliban fighters in Spin Boldak after launching an operation to retake the key southern border crossing with Pakistan.
The Taliban have also tightened their grip in the north, and battled for the stronghold of an infamous warlord.
The battle at the southern border follows weeks of intensifying fighting across Afghanistan, with the Taliban pressing multiple offensives and overrunning dozens of districts at a staggering rate.