KABUL: Taliban leader Mullah Omar Wednesday hailed as “legitimate” peace talks aimed at ending Afghanistan’s 13-year war, in his first comments on the nascent dialogue, easing concerns that it lacked the leadership’s backing.
Afghan officials sat down with Taliban cadres last week in Murree, a tourist town in the hills north of Islamabad, Pakistan, for their first face-to-face talks aimed at ending the bloody insurgency.
They agreed to meet again in the coming weeks, drawing international praise, but many militant commanders openly questioned the legitimacy of the Taliban negotiators, exposing dangerous faultlines within the movement.
But in his annual message before Eid-ul-Fitr, the festival marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, the reclusive leader backed negotiations — though he did not refer specifically to last week’s meeting.
“If we look into our religious regulations, we can find that meetings and even peaceful interactions with the enemies is not prohibited,” he said in a statement on the Taliban’s website.
“Concurrently with armed jihad, political endeavours and peaceful pathways for achieving these sacred goals is a legitimate Islamic principle.”
Several informal meetings have been held in recent months between Taliban representatives and Afghan officials and activists — including in Qatar, China and Norway — but last week’s meeting is seen as a significant step forward.
Afghan officials have not said when and where the next round of negotiations will take place, but they are widely expected to be conducted after Eid.