Taliban Formally Denies Reports of Meetings with Afghan Government
The Taliban has formally refuted reports of secret meetings with Afghan government officials, insisting there has been no change in the group's policy for holding peace negotiations.
The Guardian newspaper, in an exclusive article published Tuesday, quoted anonymous Afghan officials and sources within the Taliban as confirming at least two interactions between the warring sides in September and early October. It said the meetings took place in Doha, capital of the Gulf state of Qatar, where Taliban political negotiators are based.
A source within the Afghan government in Kabul also confirmed the meetings to VOA, without sharing further details. Afghan presidential spokesman Dawa Khan Menapal, without directly commenting on the Doha meetings, told VOA the government is making "all possible efforts" to engage with groups that are ready for peace talks, in order to promote stability in the country.
In a statement sent to media, including VOA, Taliban’s main spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the Taliban's policy about holding peace talks is "very clear and has not changed." He also urged the media to refrain from publishing unfounded reports. The Taliban condemns President Ashraf Ghani's coalition government as a "puppet regime" and has vowed not to engage in any peace process until all foreign forces withdraw from Afghanistan.
The British paper quoted an unnamed Taliban official as claiming a senior American diplomat was present at the Qatar meetings, although the U.S. government has not commented on the reported claim.
Ecuador Says It Restricted Assange's Internet Link
Ecuador's government admitted Tuesday that it had “temporarily restricted” WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's internet access at its London embassy after the site published documents from Hillary Clinton's U.S. presidential campaign.
A foreign ministry statement said that while it stands by its decision in 2012 to grant Assange asylum, it does not interfere in foreign elections. Leftist President Rafael Correa’s government said it was acting on its own and not ceding to foreign pressures.
WikiLeaks, in tweets Tuesday morning, alleged that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had asked Ecuador to stop Assange from publishing documents about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
State Department spokesperson John Kirby categorically denied the assertion. “While our concerns about WikiLeaks are longstanding, any suggestion that Secretary Kerry or the State Department were involved in shutting down WikiLeaks is false,” Kirby said. “Reports that Secretary Kerry had conversations with Ecuadorian officials about this are simply untrue. Period.”