Pakistan likely to host Taliban talks in Islamabad


–Zalmay Khalizad lauds Pakistan for continued efforts in Afghan peace process

–PM Khan reiterates Pakistan’s commitment to facilitate peace process

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Friday decided to host the next round of talks between the United States and the Afghan Taliban in Islamabad during a meeting between Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and the visiting US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad at the Foreign Office (FO).

According to reports, during the meeting, the US envoy informed the foreign minister that the Afghan Taliban did not want to sit with the Afghan government nor were they agreeing to a ceasefire. The envoy requested Pakistan’s assistance in this matter. Reportedly, the foreign minister agreed to invite the Afghan Taliban to hold talks with the US in Islamabad. Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar are also likely to be part of the talks.

The foreign minister assured the special US representative that Pakistan will continue its sincere efforts to facilitate the Afghan reconciliation process to bring peace and stability to the region. He said that establishing peace in Afghanistan is a shared responsibility of all the stakeholders.

“We have a shared responsibility to work towards bringing peace in Afghanistan,” he said.

Khalilzad, who is currently on his fifth visit to the country since assuming the post, thanked the foreign minister for Pakistan’s continued efforts for arranging talks between the US and the Taliban. He said that the US leadership values Pakistan’s endeavours for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. A US delegation comprising the representatives of American State Department and Defence and National Security Council also attended the meeting.

Khalilzad also called on Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday who reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to facilitate the peace process in Afghanistan. He briefed the prime minister on his recent visits to the region to muster support for the Afghan reconciliation process. PM Khan reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to facilitate the peace process in Afghanistan.

On Thursday, Khalilzad held meetings with Pakistan’s civil and military leadership. During a meeting with Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua, Khalilzad discussed his recent engagements in the region. He lauded Pakistan’s efforts in facilitating direct talks between the Taliban and the US in Abu Dhabi last month. The foreign secretary reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to facilitate the Afghan reconciliation process to realise the shared goal of peace and stability in the region. It was noted that taking the Afghan peace process forward remained a shared responsibility. Both sides agreed that ultimately the intra-Afghan dialogue would be vital to agree upon the contours of a future Afghan polity where Afghanistan becomes a stable and prosperous country and at peace with its neighbours.

The US delegation headed by Khalilzad and Commander Resolute Support Mission General Austin Scott Miller also met Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa at the General Headquarters (GHQ). Regional security environment and Afghan peace and reconciliation process was discussed.

The delegation appreciated Pakistan’s efforts towards the peace process. The army chief reiterated that peace in Afghanistan is important for Pakistan and assured continued efforts for bringing peace and stability in the region.

Delivering on its commitment to bring peace to the region, last month Pakistan successfully brought the Afghan Taliban to the table in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for the talks between the militant outfit and US officials to end the 17-year war in Afghanistan. The talks brokered by Pakistan concluded on December 18 in Abu Dhabi. In a joint statement issued by the Afghan Taliban and the US, both parties had agreed on carrying forward the peace process.