October 25, 2010 / 4:59 AM / 9 years ago

U.N. will help, but not discuss, Afghan peace talks

HERAT, Afghanistan (Reuters) - The United Nations’ top diplomat in Afghanistan said on Sunday he will help with efforts to find a negotiated end to a war he believes has no military solution, but he will not discuss progress.

Staffan de Mistura, special representative for the U.N. secretary-general, also said he thought a resolution to the war was in sight but the final stage of any negotiations was the most perilous, and warned that talks had to be an Afghan-only effort.

“We will do all what we can to help, and we will not be talking about it, because these things you don’t talk about, but it is an Afghan solution,” he said in the western city of Herat, the day after a U.N. office was attacked by suicide bombers.

There were no deaths in the attack, and no U.N. staff were wounded.

“We can only put the wind in the sail if they need it, but the boat is Afghan,” he added.

The insurgency is gaining strength and spreading to previously peaceful parts of Afghanistan, despite the presence of nearly 150,000 foreign troops, and this year has been the bloodiest since the ousting of the Taliban in 2001.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has long advocated talking to the Taliban, and there is a growing sense both at home and among many of the nations that support him with money and forces that negotiations may be the only route to peace.

De Mistura said he had taken up his post in Afghanistan because the country “needs and deserves a reconciliation”, and talks were ultimately the only way to end the fighting.

“There is no military solution to this conflict,” he said, but warned it would not be an easy process.

“When you are getting not far away from peace, normally it is the most delicate, dangerous moment,” he said.

“It’s like the last 500 meters of a mountain, they are the most dangerous, the most difficult, and you can fall but you see the mountain and you are getting close to it and that is where I feel we are in Afghanistan.”

Karzai says his government has made preliminary contacts with Taliban insurgents as Afghan, U.S. and NATO officials look for a possible negotiated exit to a war now entering its 10th year.

The Taliban themselves dismiss talks as propaganda, and there have been often conflicting reports about the level of contact with insurgents and who exactly is involved.

Reporting by Sharafuddin Sharafyar, writing by Emma Graham-Harrison

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