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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 September 2018

Taliban opened Qatar office after rejecting UAE anti-terror conditions

Yousef Al Otaiba, the UAE’s ambassador to Washington, says offer to host a Taliban presence in Abu Dhabi was encouraged by US as it sought peace talks but was based on renouncing violence and Al Qaeda

Qatari assistant foreign minister Ali bin Fahad Al Hajri (second from right) and the Taliban’s Jan Mohammad Madani (centre) cut the ribbon at the official opening ceremony of the Taliban Afghanistan Political Office in Doha on June 19, 2013.
Qatari assistant foreign minister Ali bin Fahad Al Hajri (second from right) and the Taliban’s Jan Mohammad Madani (centre) cut the ribbon at the official opening ceremony of the Taliban Afghanistan Political Office in Doha on June 19, 2013.

The UAE was prepared to host a Taliban office but withdrew the offer when the group refused to denounce Al Qaeda and give up violence.

Yousef Al Otaiba, the UAE’s ambassador to Washington, said the offer to host a Taliban presence in Abu Dhabi was “at the encouragement of the United States” but was based on three firm conditions.

The offer was made as the United States looked for a way to facilitate peace talks with the Taliban to end the conflict in Afghanistan.

After the UAE withdrew the offer, Qatar stepped in without the same conditions and the office opened in Doha in 2013, the ambassador said.

In a letter to the New York Times, Mr Al Otaiba spelled out the three conditions. Firstly, “the Taliban must denounce Al Qaeda and its founder, Osama bin Laden”; second, “the Taliban must recognise the Afghan constitution”; and finally, “the Taliban must renounce violence and lay down their weapons”.

Mr Al Otaiba wrote that the “Taliban refused all three conditions, and the UAE withdrew its offer".

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The letter was in response to a New York Times article published last month, which claimed the "UAE competed with Qatar in 2013 to host the Taliban embassy”.

The article was based on emails hacked from Mr Al Otaiba’s account by a pro-Qatari group.

The article said “the Emiratis tried to get the Taliban to open an embassy in their own country instead [of Qatar]” and was disappointed with the militant group choosing Doha as a base for its office.

Mr Al Otaiba said the newspaper “had only half the story about how the Taliban came to call Qatar their second home”.

“True to form, Qatar imposed no restrictions, and the Taliban eagerly set up shop in Doha,” he said.

The UAE ambassador described Doha as “the region’s most active financing, ideological and media hub for extremists”.

The UAE, along with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt, have severed diplomatic ties with Qatar and launched an economic boycott over what they say is Doha’s support for terror groups.

They accuse Qatar of hosting extremist figures, financiers and organisations, a number of which are included on US and UN terror designation lists.

The four Arab countries have highlighted the presence of the Taliban mission in Doha as an example of Qatar’s support for extremist groups.

Kuwait is leading mediation efforts to try and resolve the Qatar crisis, which erupted on June 5.

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