Karzai announces council for peace talks with Taliban

Formation of High Peace Council is 'significant step' towards speeding an end to the long war in Afghanistan.

KABUL // The Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, announced today that he had set up a council to pursue peace talks with the Taliban, who have been waging insurgency in Afghanistan for almost nine years. The formation of the High Peace Council was "a significant step towards peace talks," a statement from President Karzai's office said. The move is one of the most significant steps Karzai has taken in his oft-stated efforts to open a dialogue with the Taliban leadership aimed at speeding an end to the long war.

Karzai's plan to create the High Peace Council was approved in June at a "peace jirga" in Kabul attended by community, tribal, religious and political leaders from across the country. The council was mooted as a negotiating body, to be made up of representatives of a broad section of Afghan society, to talk peace with the Taliban, who have been waging war since their regime was toppled in late 2001.

Officials met Mr Karzai at his palace on Saturday to finalise the list of members, who would include "jihadi leaders, influential figures and women," the statement said. The complete list of members would be announced after the Eid holiday, it said. * AFP