Afghanistan will send a government delegation for talks with the Taliban in Qatar, in a potential breakthrough in efforts to end the nearly 18-year war, even as the militants said participants will attend the meeting only in a "personal capacity."
Meanwhile, EU foreign ministers on April 8 said the bloc is ready to act as a guarantor for the Afghan peace process.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. envoy seeking a peace deal with the Taliban, said in a statement late April 7 that "representatives of the Afghan government and wider society will participate" in an intra-Afghan dialogue in Doha next week.
U.S. and Taliban negotiators have held several rounds of talks in the Qatari capital, Doha, but the militant group has refused to talk directly with the Kabul government which it sees as a U.S. "puppet."
Omar Daudzai, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's peace envoy, said on April 7 that a government delegation would go to Doha to "exchange views with the Taliban."
Daudzai said the government would finalize the componence of the delegation by April 10, with the talks scheduled for April 14-15.
The Taliban said in a April 7 statement that those attending the Doha talks will not be representing the government and will only "participate in a personal capacity."
The statement also said that the participants would not engage in peace negotiations, but "will only be clarifying their views and policies and sharing their stance with others."
EU ministers said in a statement after talks in Luxembourg that the EU “encourages the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban to intensify their efforts towards a peaceful and negotiated settlement of the conflict. The EU supports all efforts to catalyze such a process, which has created a political opportunity that should be seized.”
“We could play that role both of guaranteeing the implementation of the agreement, the European Union has sufficient resources and presence on the ground to do that and I would say even more importantly, the European Union enjoys sufficient trust from different sites and parties of the Afghan society and of the region and international community to play that role,"
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said.
"Obviously we can also play a role of guaranteeing the process itself,” she added.
Khalilzad has spent most of the past week in Afghanistan as part of an ongoing push for a peace deal.
He had previously said there were indications that the Taliban could sit down with government representatives in a "multiparty format."
Although the Taliban has not held direct talks with the government, it did meet powerful opposition politicians in Moscow in February.
Some of the prominent Afghan figures that took part in the Moscow talks are expected to be part of the government delegation in Qatar.