Representatives of an Afghan militant group are holding talks in the Maldives, officials said Thursday.
Maldives government spokesman Mohamed Zuhair says 15 representatives of the Afghan government and seven Taliban members met Thursday and would meet again over the weekend.
But officials in Kabul said they did not believe any active members of the Taliban were present although some former members of the Islamist movement were present.
Instead, the meeting included members of Hizb-i-Islami, a Taliban-allied insurgent group led by former Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar which sent a delegation to Kabul in March to discuss peace with President Hamid Karzai's government.
Humayun Jareir, a prominent member of Hizb-i-Islami and Hekmatyar's son-in-law, told The Associated Press in Kabul by telephone that he organized the Maldives meeting to bring together people who are influential in both Afghanistan's government and insurgent groups to try to come up with ideas for a peaceful resolution in Afghanistan.
"We just have important people who are playing important roles in Afghanistan," Jareir said. He declined to name any of the participants but said there were 50 people attending the meeting, 25 of them Afghan parliamentarians.
"We don't invite party representatives here. We invite important people who have links with groups including the Taliban, including Hizb-i-Islami," Jareir said.
Representatives of Hizb-i-Islami also gathered in the Maldives, an island nation in the Indian Ocean, for talks in January. A spokesman for Karzai said the government did not send any official representatives. Karzai plans to hold his own national conference late this month to discuss peace overtures to the insurgents.
"We do not have any representation and we do not think it will be very helpful for the peace process of Afghanistan," Omar said.
Another Afghan government official said Kabul had sent no representatives to the talks because it wanted all such conversations to happen during the upcoming conference. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the government was not involved.
The Hizb-i-Islami talks in Kabul last March were Karzai's first face-to-face discussions with leaders of a major insurgent group. The meteings produced no final deal but the two sides pledged to continue a dialogue — that if successful could help forge a rift in the virulent Afghan insurgency.
Hizb-i-Islami is far smaller than the Taliban, but is active in at least four provinces of eastern Afghanistan and parts of the north.
Associated Press Writers Heidi Vogt and Amir Shah contributed to this report from Kabul.