ISLAMABAD: Pakistan hopes to break this month a deadlock in the nascent Afghan peace process, The Express Tribune has learnt from credible sources.
The initiative, led by the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) made up of Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, and the United States, came to a dead-end when the Afghan Taliban refused to attend a face-to-face meeting with Afghan negotiators in Islamabad in the first week of March.
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“In spite of the Taliban’s refusal, Pakistan has continued efforts to encourage them to hold direct talks with the Afghan government. We are hopeful talks will be held by the end of this month,” a source said on Saturday.
In Kabul meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani welcomed the QCG’s efforts in “creating an environment conducive to bringing the Taliban and its affiliates to the negotiating table with the goal of creating lasting peace in Afghanistan.”
A joint statement issued at the conclusion of Kerry’s Saturday visit to Kabul said both sides noted that a negotiated political settlement was the “best and surest way to bringing peace to Afghanistan.” The Afghan High Peace Council also said on Saturday that Pakistan has promised to bring the Taliban representatives to the negotiating table this month.
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“Pakistan is now under pressure from the US and China because of its promises in the quadrilateral meetings,” the council’s deputy, Maulvi Abdul Khabir Uchqun, told Afghanistan’s Azadi Radio. "Pakistan has now pledged to broker direct peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government by April-end," he added.
Pakistan’s de facto foreign minister Sartaj Aziz said on Thursday the QCG was likely to meet in Islamabad this month, but he didn’t say anything about the talks.
“The 5th meeting of the QCG will be held in April and Sartaj Aziz has also promised that a face to face meeting between Taliban representatives and Afghan officials will follow in April," Maulvi Uchqun said. "If Pakistan does not honour its commitment, then I think it will stand isolated at the international level."
Published in The Express Tribune, April 10th, 2016.