Pakistan's recent arrests of top Taliban leaders have halted the United Nation's secret talks with the insurgency, the former UN envoy to Afghanistan says.
Kai Eide, a Norwegian diplomat who just stepped down from the UN post in the Afghan capital of Kabul, told the BBC that discussions with senior Taliban members began a year ago and included face-to-face conversations outside Afghanistan.
It was the first time that Eide publicly confirmed that his contacts with senior Taliban members had begun a year ago.
"The first contact was probably last spring, then of course you moved into the [Afghan presidential] election process where there was a lull in the activity," Eide told the BBC in a report issued on Friday.
"Then, communication picked up again when the election process was over, and it continued to pick up until a certain moment a few weeks ago."
Pakistan has denied that it moved against the Taliban to stop or exert control over any talks that could determine the future of neighbouring Afghanistan.
Eide, who was interviewed at his home outside the Norwegian capital of Oslo, said there were many channels of communication with the Taliban, including those involving senior representatives of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Last month's detention of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar — second in the Taliban only to Mullah Mohammed Omar — infuriated Karzai, one of Karzai's advisors told The Associated Press.
Besides the ongoing talks, the advisor, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive topic, said Baradar had "given a green light" to participating in a three-day peace jirga or conference that Karzai is hosting next month.
Meetings in 'early stages'
Eide described the contacts with the Taliban as being "in the early stages."
"We met senior figures in the Taliban leadership and we also met people who have the authority of the Quetta Shura to engage in that kind of discussion," he said, referring to the ruling council of the group named after Quetta, Pakistan.
He said he believed that the talks would not have taken place without the blessing of Omar, the Taliban leader.
"I find it unthinkable that such contact would take place without his knowledge and also without his acceptance," Eide said.
Eide predicted it would take weeks, months or even longer to establish confidence on both sides to move forward and establish the "red lines" for any negotiations, which Eide said would have to be led by the Afghans.
"The effect of [the arrests], in total, certainly, was negative on our possibilities to continue the political process that we saw as so necessary at that particular juncture," Eide said.
"The Pakistanis did not play the role that they should have played.... They must have known who they were, what kind of role they were playing, and you see the result today."