Afghan peace efforts: OIC likely to invite Taliban 'as observers' to March summit

Islamabad, Jan 20(ANI): In an effort to find a negotiated settlement to the Afghan imbroglio, the Taliban leadership is likely to be invited as observers to an Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) summit meeting, which is scheduled to take place in Saudi Arabia in March.

The OIC has already sent an invitation to the Afghan High Peace Council, led by former Afghanistan President Burhanuddin Rabbani, indicating that a negotiated settlement of the Afghan conflict will be on the agenda of the meeting, which is to be presided over by Saudi monarch Abdullah bin Abdulaziz.

Dialogue between Saudi Arabia and the Afghan Taliban became possible only after it was established by the Saudi kingdom that the former had distanced itself from Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network, a source told The Express Tribune.

According to reports, there is a growing realisation among the Taliban that the al Qaeda is the root cause of their problems, and now they are also convinced that their ideological struggle is different from that of al Qaeda.

Reclusive Taliban leader Mullah Omar had told one of his visitors last year that he was shocked to know that al Qaeda was involved in the 9/11 apocalyptical attacks in the US, the paper said.

In the past, Mullah Omar had defended al Qaeda against the allegations that the network was responsible for the 9/11 attacks, instead seeing a Zionist conspiracy behind the attacks.

Saudi Arabia has been in contact with the Taliban since last year for a negotiated settlement of the Afghan crisis, according to the source, and the talks made a significant headway when the Saudis got a positive response from the Taliban.

Riyadh, which once had close ties with the Taliban regime, took the initiative after US President Barack Obama requested King Abdullah during his visit to Washington in June 2010 to play a role for reconciliation with the Taliban, the paper said.

The Saudi monarch expressed his willingness to do Washington's bidding, but as a pre-condition, he wanted to see the Afghan Taliban divorce the al Qaeda network. Apart from Saudi Arabia, the US and Afghanistan also demanded that the Taliban snap ties with the al Qaeda if they wanted to enter into peace talks, it added. (ANI)

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