Taliban in Norway for ‘informal talks’

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Norwegian foreign ministry officials have confirmed that representatives of the militant Islamic extremist group Taliban are in Norway this week for what they called “informal talks” with female politicians from Afghanistan. Women’s rights and their role in Afghanistan are on the agenda.

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that the two delegations, from Afghanistan and Qatar, arrived in Norway on Tuesday and were meeting behind closed doors at an undisclosed location outside Oslo. The meeting place reportedly was under guard, and its goal is to contribute towards “a more stable Afghanistan,” according to a Norwegian government spokesman.

Not formal negotiations
The Afghan television channel 1TV reported that four women, two parliamentarians and two representatives of the High Peace Council, are taking part in the talks. The Taliban reportedly sent two representatives from its offices in Doha.

The Afghan news bureau Pajhwok also reported that the meetings were taking place, but that the peace council hadn’t heard about them. The council was set up by the Afghan president to negotiate with portions of the Taliban.

“We can confirm that there are conversations in Norway between people from various political backgrounds in Afghanistan,” Frode Overland Andersen, communications chief for the Norwegian Foreign Ministry (Utenriksdepartementet, UD) told NRK. “The participants in the talks represent both civil society and politicians including women, and members of the Taliban.”

He said all were taking part in a personal capacity and were expressing their own individual views. “This isn’t any form of negotiations, but informal talks,” Andersen said.

Stressing the inclusion of women
NRK reported it was the first time women were making up the majority of an Afghan delegation meeting the Taliban. NRK reported that six Norwegian diplomats with experience from the peace process in Colombia were also taking part.

Norway’s official position is that lasting peace hinges on the inclusion of women in peace talks. That position is especially directed at talks going on in Afghanistan, Colombia, Palestine, South Sudan and Myanmar (Burma), reported NRK.

“In our view, it’s positive that Afghan political and civilian players in a personal capacity engage themselves in such informal talks,” Andersen said. Representatives of the Taliban took part earlier this year in a course in Oslo on peace booking, and the militant movement that’s deemed a terrorist organization in many countries, has sent representatives to Norway several times. There are no formal peace talks, however, going on between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund