Talks to revive Afghanistan peace process open in Islamabad
Pakistan is hosting four-way talks aimed at reviving dialog between Kabul and the Taliban militant group, and eventually ending years of bloodshed in war-torn Afghanistan.
Senior officials from Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, and the United States are taking part in the Monday talks in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.
Addressing the opening session, Pakistani Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said Islamabad wants to promote the reconciliation process in Afghanistan.
Pakistan attaches great importance to neighboring countries and feels duty-bound to ensure peace in the region, he said, adding that the main purpose of the meeting is to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.
“It is therefore important that preconditions are not attached to the start of the negotiation process. This, we argue, will be counterproductive,” he said.
Renewed peace efforts come amid widespread Taliban militancy in Afghanistan. The militants have won territory in the southern province of Helmand; they briefly seized the northern city of Kunduz and have launched a series of attacks in the capital in recent months.
The Monday meeting was agreed last month during Pakistani Army Chief General Raheel Sharif’s visit to Kabul.
On Saturday, the Afghan Foreign Ministry said the aim of the talks is to work out a “roadmap” for peace negotiations between Kabul and Taliban militants.
Pakistan was among the three countries that officially recognized the Taliban’s 1996-2001 regime, and Kabul has long accused Islamabad of continuing to covertly back the group.
Last summer, Islamabad hosted a meeting between Afghan and Taliban representatives, but the talks collapsed after the announcement of the death of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar.
There have also been growing differences among Taliban elements over peace talks with the Afghan government, with some vowing to fight for power instead of taking part in negotiations.
Afghanistan is gripped by violence and insecurity years after the US and its allies invaded the country in 2001 as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror. The offensive overthrew the Taliban, but the militants are still continuing their militancy across the country.