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Did US, Taliban hold talks in Qatar?

January 27, 2012 12:40 IST

Special US Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman appears to have met Taliban representatives in Qatar when he was in the Gulf nation early this week, but the State Department is keeping mum.

State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland threw enough hints which could be interpreted that Grossman could have had encounter with Taliban representatives, but did not respond directly to such a question at her press conference.

"Because if this process is going to work, we have to give it some time, we have to give it some space, we have to give it some room. But the fundamentals are clear. We've been absolutely clear about it," Nuland told media persons when asked why the US would not tell about such a meeting.

But Nuland was quick to refer to the press conference by Grossman in Kabul early this week.

"I would refer you to his press conference in Kabul, where he was very up front that whenever we have such meetings, he talks to the Afghan government about it before and after," Nuland said.

Soon thereafter Nuland mentioned that Grossman had two meetings with Afghan President Hamid Karzai before and after his trip to Qatar.

While one was in Kabul, the other was in Rome on Thursday.

Grossman flew to Italy immediately after his Qatar meetings.

The State Department spokesperson refrained from giving details of the Qatar meetings.

"Our goal is to get to a point where it's Afghans talking to Afghans and we're not needed to facilitate this. So that's what he's working on. But do not expect from this podium we are going to get into every blow-by-blow. We're not going to," Nuland said.

"In Qatar, by not talking about it, you're making it painfully obvious that he did have meetings with Taliban representatives," one of the correspondents asked.

"You may draw whatever conclusions you'd like, but we're going to give this diplomacy some space," Nuland said.

The State Department spokesperson said Grossman had a lot on his agenda during his trip to Qatar.

"The other thing that he (Grossman) said when he was in Kabul at his press conference was that on this office, one of the issues needs to be Qatari-Afghan direct dialogue on the office, and standing next to him, Deputy (Afghan) Foreign Minister Ludin of Afghanistan invited the Qataris to come to Kabul to talk about these issues," she said.

"So whether or not, where, who, how on the Taliban side, there was plenty of business to do in Qatar without that. Again, I think we're not going to be giving the blow-by-blow of all of these sessions," Nuland said.

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