As the Taliban office in Doha remains closed and mediation talks between the group and the Afghan government grow increasingly unlikely, negotiators are looking for a new venue to help them start afresh.
Citing a senior Afghan official, Reuters reports that the new location could be either neighboring Saudi Arabia or Turkey.
The office, which was originally supposed to be used for negotiations between US and Taliban officials, opened briefly in June, but closed two days later after a row erupted with the Afghan government.
The main issue appeared to be the pomp and circumstance involved with the opening of the office, located in Doha’s diplomatic district, including the raising of the Taliban flag and a plaque that identified the group as the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.”
Taking offense at the implications, President Hamad Karzai then suspended talks over what appeared to be an attempt by the Taliban to set up a “government-in-exile” to rival Afghanistan’s existing one.
Now, restarting those talks will take work, Habibullah Fouzi, a senior member of the High Peace Council, which Karzai created in 2010 to pursue peace with the Taliban, told Reuters:
“The problem is the Taliban raised their flag and banner at the Doha office and they would be embarrassed now to hold talks without them. For us what is most important thing is to begin the talks with them in a second location, either Turkey or Saudi.”
The sudden closure of the Taliban office here has been seen as an embarrassing setback for Qatar, which responded to the diplomatic row by removing the Taliban’s flagpole and taking down the sign.