Global Policy Forum

Warring Afghan Factions to Attend

Associated Press
July 18, 1999

Islamabad, Pakistan - Warring Afghan factions will attend the United Nations-sponsored peace talks aimed at ending the protracted civil-war in Afghanistan. The Taliban Islamic militia, which planned to boycott the July 19 and 20 talks in Uzbekistan's capital of Tashkent, changed its decision Saturday at Pakistan's request, officials of the Pakistan Foreign office said.

Earlier, the Taliban refused to attend the meeting saying that their government is not recognized by all the countries that are mediating the talks. Those countries, known as the six-plus-two group, include the six nations that share a border with Afghanistan -- Pakistan, Iran, China, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan -- plus the United States and Russia. Only Pakistan recognizes the Taliban government, which controls almost 90 percent of Afghanistan, including the capital Kabul.

The Afghan opposition, which controls remaining 10 percent of the country, had earlier confirmed its participation in Tashkent meeting, opposition spokesman Abdullah, told The Associated Press by telephone from northern Afghanistan. Abdullah, who like most Afghans, uses only one name. "Our representatives will attend the meeting," Abdullah said.

On Saturday, UN special envoy on Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, met Pakistan's Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz and asked for his help "to convince" the Taliban to attend peace talks. The Taliban agreed to attend at Islamabad's request despite their reservations, a Pakistani official said requesting anonymity. The Taliban Foreign Minister Mullah Mohammad Hasan and Ameer Khan Muttaqi will attend the meeting, he said.

The Tashkent meeting is aimed at ending fighting between rival Afghan groups and restoring peace in the war-torn country. The Taliban are battling the northern based opposition alliance on several fronts in a bid to extend their rule on the entire country. Earlier Sunday, the opposition claimed it had captured two districts in the western Ghor province from the Taliban.

The Taliban are Sunni Muslim and mostly Pashtun -- the majority ethnic group of Afghanistan. They follow a harsh version of Islam. The opposition comprises religious and ethnic minorities and rule the remaining 10 percent of the country.

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