Pak wants max number of Taliban groups to join Afghan talks

Islamabad: Pakistan on Saturday called for collective efforts to persuade maximum number of Taliban groups to join Afghan peace dialogue, as the US, China, Pakistan and Afghanistan launched third round of talks here aimed at adopting a roadmap for reconciliation in the war-torn country.
“We believe our collective efforts at this stage, including through supportive CBMs have to be aimed at persuading maximum number of Taliban groups to join the peace talks,” Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Advisor on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said at the four-nation meeting.
“This will contribute to imparting a momentum to the process offering incentive of political mainstreaming to the insurgent groups, and gradually shrink the space for the irreconcilables,” he said.
The Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) was set up in December last year to facilitate the reconciliation process in the war-torn country.
Aziz said the meeting will have useful deliberations aimed at further advancing the work of the Group in a meaningful manner. He also said that the group was working to adopt a roadmap for talks.
“I am hopeful that continuing with this spirit and resolve, the Group will now focus on the early adoption of a roadmap for the reconciliation process and identify the way forward for holding direct peace talks between the representatives of the Government of Afghanistan and Taliban groups as early as possible,” he said.
He said “a clear, well-defined and actionable roadmap for the peace process between the Afghan Government and Taliban groups is important” and should identify and stipulate various stages of the process while measuring the progress being made at each stage.
“It should also serve to convey positive signals about unflinching commitment of the parties to the peace process,” he said.
Aziz said Pakistan fully shared Afghanistan’s concern that increasing violence is a key challenge and its reduction should be an important objective of peace talks.
“We are confident that the (QCG) process would lead to a significant reduction of violence,” he said, adding that peace in Afghanistan is very important for regional peace and stability.
“We firmly believe that a politically negotiated settlement through an all inclusive intra-Afghan reconciliation process will contribute towards accomplishing our shared goal of lasting peace in Afghanistan,” he said.
The first round of talks was held in July but the process was suspended in the same month after news of Taliban chief Mullah Omar’s death was announced.
The second round of talks was held in January this year.
It is believed that the process of peace in Afghanistan will be a test for all parties due to strong opposition within Afghanistan towards any peace with the Taliban.
Some analysts believe that the added presence of China and the US may help overcome mistrust between Kabul and Islamabad, though it remains unclear when the Taliban themselves will return to the negotiating table. They are not part of this week’s talks.
The Taliban, who were ousted in 2001, remain split on whether to take part in talks.
The outfit has stepped up attacks since the US and NATO formally ended their combat mission in Afghanistan a year ago, and the fighters are battling local Afghan security forces on several fronts.
The expansion of the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan has fuelled regional and international concerns that the upcoming spring fighting season may lead to even more bloodshed and instability in the war-shattered country.

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