Afghanistan’s Taliban militant group has demanded to be removed from a United Nations blacklist before re-joining peace talks aimed at ending a 15-year civil war, a senior member said during a meeting with activists at an unofficial forum in Qatar.
Afghanistan and its neighbours have been trying to get troubled negotiations back on track, which stalled after worsening fights with the province of Helmand slipped out of government control and suicide bombings in the capital, Kabul, increased.
Taliban extended its presence on the battlefield since the withdrawal of most international troops in 2014 and joining any talks had appeared slim.
However, a Taliban militant said that the group would participate in negotiations if the UN Security Council cancelled a resolution, freezing assets and limiting the travel of senior figures.
"We conveyed them to first remove us from the blacklist of the United Nations and allow us to freely travel around the world and then we can think about holding peace talks," the militant said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Pakistan held the first formal talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government in July 2015, but the second round of the talks were cancelled after the announcement of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, who sanctioned the talks, had been dead for two years.
Since then, relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have collapsed amid increased fights between the Taliban and Afghan forces.
Afghan officials, Taliban representatives and activists arrived at a hotel in downtown Doha on Saturday morning, for a two-day meeting aimed at resolving the war. The meeting was organised by Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, a Nobel peace prize-winning crisis group.
"The meeting is providing us an opportunity to express our views about the future of Afghanistan,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said as the group was itself riven by factional infighting.
An adviser to the Afghan president Malalai Shinwari and the country’s former Interior Minister Umer Daudzai would participate the Doha talks. The Afghan government did not send any serving officials.
Afghanistan’s former Finance Minister Anwar Ahady also took part in the Doha talks and said that the Taliban has not yet shown willingness to be involved in direct talks.
"So far they have not proposed any concrete ideas about how to move forward. Hopefully by tomorrow we will know if they want peace and if so what their conditions are," Ahady said.
Taliban’s presence in the peace talks would only represent part of the militant movement fighting to topple the government in Kabul.
Leadership divisions in the group impede progress, with some militant factions, such as a splinter group led by Mullah Mohammad Rasool Akhund, refusing to take part.
Taliban militants have been living in Qatar for years and briefly opened a political office there in 2013.
In 2010, Afghanistan said that the UN had agreed to remove some Taliban militants who renounced ties to al Qaeda from the UN blacklist on a “gradual” basis to try and help Afghan efforts to engage some insurgents in talks. The Afghan government submitted a list of 20 names and five were removed from the list.