Afghan peace talks expected next week: report

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Peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban are likely to resume as early as next week, Pakistani officials said Wednesday.

“An internationally guaranteed and monitored peace process is likely to begin next week,” officials told VOA, while requesting anonymity.

They added that Pakistan wants an international presence in the entire process because of the long history of mistrust and suspicion between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The development stems from a string of bilateral, trilateral, and quadrilateral meetings in Islamabad involving Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, and top American and Chinese officials.

The discussions took place on the sidelines of an annual regional conference on Afghanistan.

The officials told VOA that Pakistan at the meetings “laid out both its leverage and limitations” with factions of the Afghan insurgency and assured all participants that Islamabad “will do whatever it can to bring at least those to the [negotiating] table who are under its influence.”

Speaking at a news conference after the meetings, Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani confirmed that an understanding has been reached on starting reconciliation talks with the Taliban.

The minister said all stakeholders agreed that “the surest way” to peace and stability in Afghanistan was through negotiations.

“…our allies, in this case U.S. and China and of course Pakistan, have expressed their willingness to work with Afghanistan on the peace and reconciliation process. And we very much hope that his efforts will result in a result-oriented peace process where we will see some positive moves in the coming weeks …but we hope that this will start as soon as possible.”

The Afghan minister said there are no “new terms and conditions” from the government for starting peace talks with the Taliban, adding both sides can discuss it once the process begins.

“We will welcome all those opposition elements who renounce violence, accept Afghanistan’s constitution, disarm, and join the reconciliation process,” Rabbani added.

There was no immediate reaction from the Taliban about its participation in the peace talks.

When asked whether Kabul trusts Islamabad’s commitment to helping promote peace in Afghanistan, Rabbani said that the Pakistani leadership at the meetings had assured that peace in Afghanistan is vital for stability in their own country and “we hope they will sincerely and honestly” cooperate with Afghanistan to make the reconciliation “result-oriented”.

Pakistani officials described the agreement to resume Afghan peace talks as a major step and expected a lot of work and consultations before the peace negotiations, without disclosing their location.

The previous Pakistan-brokered Afghan peace dialogue took place near Islamabad in July but it was halted after the announcement of the death of long time Taliban leader Mullah Omar.