Taliban, Afghan government attend Norway conference
Both sides confirmed their participation in the Oslo Forum, which aims to gather peace negotiators from around the world in an environment where they can exchange ideas away from the glare of the media.
Their shared attendance at the conference comes after the Taliban met earlier this month in Norway with an Afghan delegation, reportedly made up of women, signalling a nascent dialogue despite an escalating militant offensive.
But the Taliban, who were toppled from power in a 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan, dismissed any speculation that the Oslo Forum was being used to bring the two sides together for peace talks.
"Some media outlets have asserted that the delegation of Islamic Emirate will hold face-to-face talks with officials of the Kabul administration in Oslo," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement, using the group`s official name.
"This claim is untrue and neither is this conference being held for such a purpose."
The Afghan delegation, as well as the Norwegian government, also dismissed talk of any formal negotiations in Oslo.
"There are no official peace talks planned," Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende told journalists ahead of the start of the conference.
"But if we want peace, the disagreeing parties are going to have to talk to each other," he added.
Afghan authorities have repeatedly tried to jumpstart talks with the Taliban in the hope of ending a 13-year conflict, but the militants have set tough conditions, including the withdrawal of all foreign troops in Afghanistan.
Official efforts to reopen peace negotiations with the Taliban have so far borne little fruit but informal talks, involving Afghans from varied political backgrounds, have occurred in the recent past behind a veil of secrecy.
The militants have intensified their annual spring offensive, stepping up attacks on government and foreign targets in what is expected to be the bloodiest fighting season in a decade.