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Taliban groups must join Afghanistan peace talks, says Pakistan

Pakistan said as many Taliban groups as possible must be persuaded to join any peace process with the Afghan government.

world Updated: Feb 06, 2016 22:11 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad
In this handout photograph released by the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP), adviser to the Pakistan’s Prime Minister on foreign affairs, Sartaj Aziz (C) chairs the third round of four-way peace talks with Afghanistan, US and Chinese delegates in Islamabad.
In this handout photograph released by the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP), adviser to the Pakistan’s Prime Minister on foreign affairs, Sartaj Aziz (C) chairs the third round of four-way peace talks with Afghanistan, US and Chinese delegates in Islamabad. (AFP Photo)

Pakistan said as many Taliban groups as possible must be persuaded to join any peace process with the Afghan government, as a third round of four-country talks aimed at reviving negotiations with the militant group began on Saturday.

Senior officials from Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and the US met in Islamabad to finalise a roadmap for resuming crucial Afghan peace talks.

Sartaj Aziz, the foreign affairs adviser to the Pakistani premier, said a joint effort will help persuade the Taliban to join the process and lead to a significant reduction in violence.

“We believe our collective efforts at this stage, including through supportive CBMs (confidence-building measures), have to be aimed at persuading a maximum number of Taliban factions to join the peace talks,” he said in his opening statement at the talks.

“In our view, a clear, well-defined and actionable roadmap for the peace process between the Afghan government and Taliban groups is important.”

Aziz presided over the third meeting of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group established in December last year as part of a renewed push for reviving the Afghan peace process. There have been no contacts with the Taliban since it emerged last year that the group’s supreme leader, Mullah Omar, had died in 2013.

“The people of Afghanistan have been suffering from an unending cycle of violence for decades. They need lasting peace and stability,” Aziz said.

A roadmap for talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban is of crucial importance, he said. “It should identify and stipulate various stages of the process while measuring the progress made at each stage,” he added.

Afghan deputy foreign minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai, Pakistan’s foreign secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry and senior officials of China and the US are participating in the talks.

The roadmap was introduced in the first meeting of the quadrilateral process in Islamabad early last month.

“It is really encouraging that the group has made steady progress in its first two meetings, demonstrating clarity as well as seriousness of purpose,” said Aziz.

“In the Kabul meeting on January 18, the QCG’s call on the Taliban groups to enter into early talks with the Afghan government without preconditions is a reiteration of a strong message by the international community for peace talks in order to find a basis for enduring political settlement in Afghanistan.”

Referring to Islamabad’s stance on eliminating terrorism, Aziz said, “Pakistan shares Afghanistan’s concern that increasing violence is a key challenge and its reduction should be an important objective for the peace talks.”