The first meeting between Taliban and Afghan government representatives on ending the 18-year-old war in Afghanistan has been canceled after a row over who should attend, officials said on Friday.
The meeting alongside a delegation of the United States was to be held between Friday and Sunday in Qatar but the host country rejected a list of 250 participants submitted by Kabul, a statement from Afghan President Ashraf Gani’s office said.
"After the Qatari government failed to accept our rightful demand (about the list of participants), the Qatari government canceled the Doha conference,” the statement said.
The Afghan government said a non-government committee had prepared the list of participants who represented "all political and social movements and classes of the society” to attend the talks in Doha.
However, Qatar prepared its own list, which was "non-inclusive," and did not represent the Afghan society, according to the Afghan government.
“After all preparations were done for the travel of the delegation, ironically, last night a new unbalanced and non-inclusive list which was in a way dishonor to the will and decision of the Afghan nation was sent from Qatar. This action was not acceptable for the Afghan nation,” the statement said.
According to the statement, political leaders urged the government of Qatar to accept the list of the Afghan delegation but Doha did not relent.
The list, which included 52 women, was announced on Wednesday to represent the Afghan government at the meet in Doha.
But the Taliban and other opponents of the government criticized it as being too extensive. The insurgents even made fun of the list, comparing it with wedding invitations.
Former Afghan president Hamid Karzai, who led the Afghan delegation in an earlier dialog held in Moscow, said in a statement that the Doha conference was "delayed, for now" and not canceled.
"Afghan people will soon gather (for) an intra-Afghan meeting to take stable steps for bringing peace and development to their people and country," he said
The meeting was set to be the first opportunity for representatives of the government and the Taliban to have a direct dialogue about peace, after months of US efforts to persuade the insurgents to meet a delegation from Kabul.
"I am disappointed Qatar's intra-Afghan initiative has been delayed. We are in touch with all parties and encouraged that everyone remains committed to dialog and the Afghan peace process," tweeted US Special Envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad.
The envoy, who has for months been heading the discussions between the US and the Taliban, urged all parties to "seize the moment and put things back on track by agreeing to a participant list that speaks for all Afghans”.