ISLAMABAD: The initiative involving Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States seeking direct peace talks with the Afghan Taliban is all but dead after two key players — Kabul and Washington — showed little interest in reviving the process, officials familiar with the development said on Sunday.
The quadrilateral group, which was established in December last year as part of efforts to seek an Afghan peace deal, held its last meeting in Islamabad on May 18 in which all sides agreed to give peace a chance in order to bring the Afghan conflict to an end.
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However, just three days later, Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansoor was killed by the US in a drone strike in Balochistan near the Pak-Afghan border in a move that effectively scuttled the process, albeit, for the time being.
A senior Pakistani official told The Express Tribune that although both Pakistan and China considered the drone strike as damaging for the fragile Afghan peace process, they continued their efforts to revive the four-nation initiative.
However, the official, who requested not to be named because he was not authorised to speak to the media, said Kabul and Washington did not respond positively to the latest peace overtures by Islamabad and Beijing.
“It seems both Afghanistan and the US are not serious in reviving the peace process,” the official added. When asked whether the quadrilateral process should now be considered as dead, his reply was in affirmative.
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The development reflects widening gulf between Pakistan and Afghanistan on how to deal with the over a decade long unrest in the neighboring country. Kabul is adamant that Islamabad should use force against Afghan Taliban groups allegedly hiding in Pakistan as the insurgents refused to enter into to peace talks.
Pakistan, however, insists that pursuing the peace process is the only viable option to seek an end to the long running conflict in Afghanistan.
The moribund peace efforts have also been complicated by recent announcement by US Secretary of State John Kerry that the US, Afghanistan and India would be holding trilateral talks later this month in New York at the sidelines of UN General Assembly session.
Mindful of the possible reaction from Pakistan, Kerry insisted that Islamabad should not feel isolated with the trilateral talks.
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However, Pakistan was far from convinced with Kerry’s assurance as it questioned the initiative that was announced at a time when India has been accused of using Afghan soil to foment violence in Balochistan province.
“We are not sure as to what is the need for it, what this proposed arrangement hopes to achieve, what would be its parameters and modalities,” remarked Foreign Office spokesperson Nafees Zakaria at a news briefing last Thursday.
But despite all this, Pakistan has still not given up efforts to persuade Afghanistan and the US to agree for reviving the peace deal.
The Express Tribune has learnt through reliable sources that efforts are being made to arrange a meeting of officials from Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and the US at the sidelines of UN session later this month in order to iron out differences among the stakeholders on Afghan peace talks. However, those efforts have yet to succeed, the sources added.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 5th, 2016.
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