Canada signals support to Kabul's peace talks with Taliban

13:38, October 24, 2010      

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Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper and top general in Afghanistan said Friday that the country is willing to see the Taliban take part in peace talks with the Afghan government in Kabul.

Speaking to reporters in Switzerland, where he is attending a meeting of leaders of French-speaking countries, Harper said he expects the Taliban will eventually have a role in the government of Afghanistan.

Harper said Canada and its allies have always strongly supported attempts at political reconciliation, and that has been the position of the Afghan government.

"It has always been our position that that is part of an eventual solution," Harper said. "It is not simply military action alone, but obviously there are important conditions that the Afghan government and that the allies' support with regard to those talks have to do with things like respect for the constitutional order, the laying down of arms and obviously any agreement along those lines would be something that Canada would strongly support."

Harper said Canada encourages talks that respect those kinds of conditions, adding that he expects all aspects of the Afghan constitution, including its human rights guarantees, to be respected.

In Ottawa, Brigadier-General Dean Milner, Commander of Canada' Joint Task Force in Afghanistan, said at a press conference that the Canadian military supports Afghan President Hamid Karzai's efforts to reach out to the Taliban in peace talks.

He said Canadian troops would allow insurgents to travel through its fighting lines to Kabul to take part in peace talks, if asked by the Kabul regime or NATO partners.

Earlier this month, Karzai confirmed that discreet talks are underway to establish peace in Afghanistan, with Taliban leaders being ferried by NATO from Pakistan to Kabul to meet with Kabul's representatives.

"We have been talking to the Taliban as countryman to countryman," Karzai said. "Not as a regular official contact with the Taliban with a fixed address, but rather unofficial personal contacts have been going on for quite some time."

Canada, which joined the NATO's coalition in Afghanistan since 2002, has 2,800 troops based there, mainly in the southern province of Kandahar. The Canadian government plans to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan next summer.

Source: Xinhua

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