Taliban held secret talks in Norway to broker Doha deal

OSLO Tue Jun 18, 2013 1:58pm EDT

OSLO (Reuters) - The Taliban held secret negotiations in Norway over the past few months, helping yield a deal that allowed the radical Afghan rebels to open an office in Qatar, Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide said on Tuesday.

"We have played a key role in this process," Barth Eide told state broadcaster NRK. "It has been a strictly confidential process but we can now reveal it."

Barth Eide would not say how many rounds of such talks took place in Norway, a NATO member, or who the Taliban negotiated with. Afghan President Hamid Karzai was in Oslo in February for what appeared at the time as a mostly protocol visit.

The Taliban opened an office in Doha on Tuesday to help restart talks on ending Afghanistan's 12-year-old war, saying it wanted a political solution that would bring about a just government and end foreign occupation.

Norway, a close U.S. ally, has been an important venue of past peace talks, most recently bringing Colombia's government and FARC rebels to the negotiating table last year. Those talks produced a breakthrough after decades of conflict.

Oslo also played host to secret meetings between Israel and Palestinian leaders that led to interim peace accords in 1993, and brokered a 1996 accord that ended the 36-year civil war in Guatemala in Central America.

(Reporting by Balazs Koranyi; Editing by Mark Heinrich)