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Turkey says it would consider hosting a Taliban office as part of efforts to end Afghan war

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ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey said Monday it is willing to consider the idea of hosting a political office for Taliban militants from Afghanistan in order to promote talks to end the war there, and an Afghan official said Turkish planning is already in progress.

Turkey contributes troops to NATO's Afghan operation, albeit in a noncombat role, and it has sought to mediate as a regional power in a variety of conflicts beyond its borders. However, hardline elements of the Taliban, whose leaders are based in southwest Pakistan, have publicly derided Afghan government efforts to promote peace and say no talks are possible until foreign forces leave Afghan soil.

A possible role for Turkey, the largest Muslim voice in NATO, in Afghan peace efforts would fit U.S.-backed initiatives to seek a political solution to the nearly decade-old insurgency amid a realization that military force alone is unlikely to end it.

A Turkish Foreign Ministry official said there was no official application to open a Taliban office in Turkey and that there were no immediate plans to host Afghan peace talks. The issue will be evaluated if a request is made, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with ministry regulations.

However, Arsala Rahmani, a member of the peace council set up by the Afghan government to work toward a political solution, said Turkey is already making plans for the office but it will take time to work out.

Former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who heads the Afghan High Peace Council, discussed the issue during a visit to Turkey last month, Rahmani said.

"Turkey didn't say no," Rahmani said. "It is a key issue for resolving the situation in Afghanistan. It's important for the Taliban to have a political address — a place — to talk to the world face to face. We have said in the past that without an address, solving the problem will be difficult."

The council has so far made little headway in bringing the Taliban to the peace table.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari is scheduled to arrive in Turkey late Monday, and Afghanistan is expected to be high on the agenda of talks. Any solution to the Afghan conflict would likely require the support of Pakistan, and in particular elements of its security forces that are believed to have links to insurgents in Afghanistan.


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