Pak asks Taliban to resume talks with US

Islamabad: Pakistan on Thursday asked the Taliban to grasp the opportunity and resume talks with the US for an early and peaceful resolution of the conflict in Afghanistan, saying war is not a solution, as top leaders of the militant group met Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi here.

A high-level Taliban delegation met Qureshi as part of a push to revive the Afghan peace process stalled after US President Donald Trump abruptly declared the talks with the rebel group “dead”.

The Foreign Office said in a statement that a delegation of the Taliban Political Commission (TPC) called on Qureshi. The delegation was led by the head of TPC Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and included senior members of the commission.

Welcoming the delegation, the Foreign Minister noted that while the people of both Afghanistan and Pakistan have a shared history, geography and culture, Islam remains the strongest bond between the two brotherly countries.

“While appreciating Taliban’s serious engagement in the peace process, he underscored the need to take these efforts to their logical conclusion,” Qureshi said.

Qureshi noted that the existing, broad regional and international consensus for achieving peace in Afghanistan at the earliest provided an unprecedented opportunity that must not be lost.

The US and the Taliban had agreed on draft peace plan, but the process was suspend by President Trump following killing of an American soldier in Kabul last month in a suicide attack claimed by the Taliban.

Trump stunned the world when he suddenly declared that the Afghan peace talks with the Taliban were “dead”.

He cancelled a secret meeting with the Taliban and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at Camp David near Washington after the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in Kabul, in which an American soldier was among the dead.

Qureshi said it was up to the parties to the conflict in Afghanistan to grasp this opportunity. Qureshi also expressed the hope that the currently paused peace process would be restarted at an early date.

Qureshi said that “Pakistan has maintained for several years that there is no military solution to the complex situation in Afghanistan.

An inclusive peace and reconciliation process, involving all sections of the Afghan society, was the only, practical way forward.

“It was time to make all possible efforts for an early and peaceful resolution of the conflict in Afghanistan, he said.

Qureshi added that Pakistan would continue to support all efforts to achieve permanent peace in Afghanistan which was essential for Pakistan’s own socio-economic development and progress.

Qureshi said all these years Pakistan has also kept reminding the world not to overlook the hardcore political, economic, socio-cultural and ethnic ground realities in Afghanistan and its immediate neighborhood.

Foreign Minister further noted that the direct Taliban-US talks since last year, strongly and sincerely supported by Pakistan, had now laid a firm ground for achieving a sustainable peace deal in Afghanistan.

“A pacific settlement of the conflict would lead to a significant reduction of violence, end of bloodshed and long-term peace, stability and prosperity for future generations of Afghanistan, he said.

This was first ever visit of a Taliban delegation to Pakistan since the establishment of the TPC.

Official sources said that the talks between Qureshi and the Taliban went on for more than one and half hours. Chief of Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency Lt Gen. Faiz Hameed was also present in the meeting.

The delegation will also held more meetings with the civil and military officials of Pakistan but the details have not been shared.

The delegation is also expected to meet American officials.

US special envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad is also in Pakistan to discuss the revival of the peace talks. He may also meet the Taliban delegation.

Khalilzad’s visit comes days after Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to the US where he met Trump and among other issues discussed the revival of negotiations to bring peace in Afghanistan.

Since his appointment in September last year, Afghanistan-born Khalilzad has met with all sides in an attempt to end America’s longest war in which the US has lost over 2,400 soldiers in more than 17 years.

The Taliban control nearly half of Afghanistan, and are more powerful now than they were at any time since the 2001 US-led invasion after the 9/11 attacks.

The US has continued to push for a ceasefire in the war-torn country and the opening of negotiations between the Taliban and the Kabul government.

The Taliban, however, have repeatedly refused to meet with officials of the Afghan government, whom they dismiss as “puppets”.

The US has long considered Pakistani cooperation crucial to efforts to end the war in Afghanistan. PTI

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