Qatar has appointed an ambassador to Afghanistan for the first time, as the Persian Gulf nation hosts peace talks aimed at ending the nearly 18-year Afghan war.
Doha, the Qatari capital, hosts the Taliban's semiofficial political office and has been the location of the ongoing talks between the United States and the militant group.
The ruler of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, issued a decree on April 29 appointing Saeed Mubarak al-Khayarin al-Hajri as the ambassador to Kabul.
Afghanistan has an embassy in Qatar, but the Gulf nation maintains no diplomatic presence in the Afghan capital.
Kabul has close ties with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Doha's rivals in the Gulf region.
U.S. and Taliban negotiators began their sixth round of direct talks in Qatar’s capital on May 1.
U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has narrowed the gaps on a potential peace deal under which U.S. forces would withdraw in return for guarantees that Afghanistan will not revert to a haven for international terrorists.
The Taliban has refused to hold talks with the government in Kabul, calling it a Western “puppet.”
An Afghan delegation, including government officials, was scheduled to meet Taliban officials in Doha on April 26. But the talks collapsed after disagreements over the composition of the delegation, which was to meet informally with Taliban leaders.
The Taliban political office was opened in 2013 to facilitate peace talks between the militant group, Kabul, and Washington.
But the talks were derailed after former Afghan President Hamid Karzai objected angrily to the presence of the Taliban's flag and insignia on the grounds of the building.
While Kabul refused to recognize the office, members of the Taliban's political wing have maintained it and it has been provided for by the Qatari government.
With reporting by BBC Persian, Tolo News, and RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan