10/22/2008, 00.00
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Riyadh confirms its mediation between Karzai and the Taliban

An initial encounter took place in Mecca last month. The Saudis are willing to continue their activity if both sides agree to lay down their weapons. "Better late than never" the reaction to Barak's words about the plan for peace between Arabs and Israelis.

Riyadh (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Saudi Arabia has confirmed that it hosted a meeting between representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban, and has added that any future steps in its mediation will take place only if both sides agree to lay down their weapons and proceed on the political level. The encounter between the contending parties is said to have taken place last month in Mecca, but both sides have denied that there were reconciliation talks.

Saudi Arabian foreign minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal explains that "the Kingdom’s effort was the result of an official request by President Hamid Karzai." Saud emphasizes that his country's effort is connected to concern "about security and peace in that country - but it’s up to the Afghans themselves." The Saudi minister specifies that "if we feel there is a desire by the Afghans to solve their problems politically and end violence, then that’s what we hope for and there will be endeavors in that framework. But if we don’t feel there is a response then it would be difficult to find a way to intervene."

Saud then said that he had met with the head of European foreign policy, Javier Solana, to talk about the deterioration of the security situation in Kabul. During his visit to Saudi Arabia, Solana was also received by King Abdullah, with whom he discussed the most pressing international issues and the means for reinforcing cooperation between the Saudi kingdom and the European Union.

And in regard to peace initiatives, the minister welcomed the statements by Israel's defense minister, Ehud Barak, that the new government will examine seriously the plan for peace between Arabs and Israelis, proposed by the Saudi's. "Better late than never," he commented.

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