Turkey and Pakistan are talking about cooperating in a dialogue with the Taliban.
President Abdullah Gul of Turkey, a moderate Islamist—but still an Islamist—and Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari met in Ankara today to talk about, among other things, Afghanistan. Gul was asked directly whether or not Turkey will allow the Taliban to set up an office in Turkey, so that the Taliban has an address for negotiations, and while he didn’t answer directly, he did say: “2011 is a very critical year for Afghanistan… as the foreign troops will begin to withdraw… We are using all our capabilities to secure Afghanistan’s unity and integrity.”
Earlier this year, the head of the Higher Peace Council, the body set up by President Karzai to seek talks with the insurgents, visited Turkey to explore the idea of an office for the Taliban. Karzai supports the idea, too. There’s a lot of talk in the air about the idea of working out a deal with the Taliban, including a recent report from the Century Foundation.
Because the Taliban’s leaders aren’t free to travel—at least not without US-fired drones following them—arrangements would have to be made for the Taliban to go back and forth between Turkey and Pakistan safely. Zardari, asked about this, suggested that his country might facilitate such travel. According to AP: “Zardari, responding to a question on whether Pakistan would allow Taliban militants from Pakistan to travel to Turkey if the office is opened, said: ‘We will be facilitators to any format to lead to peace.’ ”