In a significant development that may lead to an elusive peace deal in Afghanistan, the Afghan Taliban have agreed to cease fire if Pakistan and China guarantee that a ‘united national government’ will be formed in the war-ravaged Afghanistan.
Pakistan hosted the meeting in a tentative step towards ending more than 14years of bloody conflict in neighbouring Afghanistan, where the Taliban have been trying to re-establish their regime, which was toppled by a US-led military invasion in 2001. The next round of talks is provisionally planned for August 15 and 16 in Doha, capital of Qatar, according to sources close to the participants. Tuesday’s meeting was hailed as a “breakthrough” by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
The Taliban representatives made this offer during crucial talks with senior Afghan government officials in the popular tourist resort of Murree. Officials from Pakistan, China and the United States also attended the closed door talks, suggesting the latest process has the backing of major international players.
Top Afghan officials and Taliban representatives held face-to-face talks in Islamabad earlier, as first round of serious negotiations brokered by Pakistan to strike an elusive peace deal aimed at bringing about an end to the more than decade-long conflict in Afghanistan.
In response to that, the Taliban leaders said they would stop attacks if Islamabad and Beijing guaranteed that a ‘united national government’ would be formed in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai — the nephew of former Afghan President Hamid Karzai — was said to be leading the government delegation in the talks which are being attended by all factions of the Afghan Taliban, including the Haqqani Network. Senior officials of Pakistan’s Foreign Office and security has also attended the first round of negotiations, he said.
“This is the first-ever direct contact between the Afghan government and all factions of the Taliban,” revealed the official, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue. “The meeting shows that Pakistan is genuinely interested in an Afghan peace deal,” he said.
When asked about the possible outcome of talks, the official cautioned that it was a complicated process and that “we should not expect results overnight.” Foreign Office Spokesperson Qazi Khalilullah said he had no information about the talks when contacted.
Four-member delegation of the Afghan Govt’s High Peace Council is visiting Islamabad for talks with the Taliban. Three Taliban leaders are taking part in the talks, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Zafar Hashmi told reporters in the Afghan capital.
“The delegation being led by Hekmat Karzai includes Haji Din Muhammad and other members of the High Peace Council as well as the advisers of both President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Dr Abdullah Abdullah,” a senior Pakistani government official confirmed.
However, the senior Pakistani official said that representatives of both sides had been fully sanctioned and authorised by their respective leaderships.
He added that all friendly countries and stakeholders were supporting the peace process and that Pakistan in particular was playing a special role in this regard. “Pakistan and Afghanistan need peace and both countries are aware of this fact. Pakistan has high stakes in peace in Afghanistan, which is why we are facilitating the process.”
The Muree peace talks are thought to be the follow-up to the peace talks held in Urumqi, China in May, which, according to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s adviser Sartaj Aziz, were also facilitated by Pakistan. While addressing a parliamentary panel, Aziz had signaled that a second meeting would be held soon.
Senior Taliban leaders who have been recently involved in the talks include Mullah Jalil, Mullah Hasan and Abdul Razaq. They had reportedly attended the previous meeting in Urumqi.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif hailed the meeting as a breakthrough on Tuesday as talks were about to get under way.
"The participants exchanged views on ways and means to bring peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan," the Foreign office statement said, adding that the two sides had agreed to approach the talks with "sincerity and... full commitment".
US and Chinese representatives also attended, the ministry said, adding that the next round of talks will be held at a "mutually convenient date" after Ramazan.
The United States and China praised Pakistan for facilitating the meeting between Afghan government and Taliban representatives.. Tags: #Afghanistan #Pakistan #
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