The special U.S. representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan, Marc Grossman’s meeting with the Taliban is not entirely ruled out, a senior State Department official has said.
“I don’t think I want to rule it in or out,” the State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters in Washington on Tuesday when asked about news reports that Mr. Grossman could meet the Taliban representatives when he visits Afghanistan during his ongoing travel to the region.
“I don’t know that we’re going to be discussing those kinds of meetings going forward,” Mr. Toner said indicating that the U.S. is unlikely to publicly discuss such meetings.
“I think we’ve been very clear that we support this Afghan-led process. The Secretary (of State) spoke to this very plainly and very clearly last week. But I don’t know if we want to be giving a kind of a play by play of who he’s meeting with when as these...,” Mr. Toner said.
Mr. Grossman, the State Department official said, was in Ankara on Monday, will be in Riyadh on Wednesday, and would be in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.
“In Turkey, he met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs Under-Secretary as well as the Deputy Under-Secretary and his counterpart in Turkey, the Special Representative for Afghanistan,” he said.
The U.S. official said that Mr. Grossman has expressed appreciation for Turkey’s strong support for Afghanistan, including the hosting of the Istanbul conference on November 2, 2011.
“In Riyadh, he held meetings at the Saudi Ministry of foreign affairs with various officials, also expressed our appreciation for Saudi Arabia’s efforts in building a better, stronger, more stable Afghanistan.
“Of course, in all these meetings, he did reaffirm our support for an Afghan-owned and an Afghan-led reconciliation process. He also promised, of course, to consult closely with Turkey and Saudi Arabia going forward,” Mr. Toner said.
While replying to another query, he informed that Mr. Grossman could not travel to Islamabad during his current trip to the region after the Pakistan officials requested him not to visit the country due to the ongoing parliamentary review process.
“The Pakistani government felt it would be best to wait until this parliamentary review is concluded,” he said.
At the direction of the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Mr. Grossman is currently on a tour to the region.