Harper gives cautious nod to talks with Taliban

Kehrsatz, Switzerland — The Globe and Mail

Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets with Swiss President Doris Leuthard in Kehrsatz, Switzerland, on Oct. 22, 2010. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered qualified support Friday for the negotiations underway between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Taliban leaders toward a power-sharing peace agreement in Afghanistan.

Canada and its allies "have always supported attempts at reconciliation," Mr. Harper told reporters during a press conference here with Swiss President Doris Leuthard.

Story continues below ad

However, "there are always important conditions" that must be met before Canada could endorse any agreement, he added.

Those conditions would include both the laying down of arms by the Taliban and its respect for the Afghan constitution, "including its human rights guarantees." Those guarantees respect, among other things, the equal rights of women.

"Any agreement along those lines is something Canada would strongly support," Mr. Harper concluded.

Although little public information is available, press reports suggest that NATO forces assisted four senior Taliban leaders, none of whom was Mullah Omar, the notorious former leader of Afghanistan, in travelling from Pakistan to the capital, Kabul. American negotiators are not part of the talks.