MOSCOW / ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Friday reiterated that only a political settlement, fully cognisant of and responsive to the hardcore socio-cultural, political and economic realities of Afghanistan, can restore peace in the country.
The reiteration from Pakistan came as Afghanistan rivals failed to reach a breakthrough on holding direct peace negotiations after international talks in Moscow, the latest international push to end the conflict.
Russia, which said it invited representatives from the United States as well as India, Iran, China and Central Asian Republics, hailed the Moscow Format Consultations on Afghanistan as an opportunity to “open a new page” in Afghanistan’s history and seek an end to the war 17 years after the US-led invasion.
Pakistani delegation was led by Additional Secretary (Afghanistan and West Asia) Muhemmed Aejaz, a Foreign Office statement said.
This was the first meeting of the Moscow Format with participation of Afghan High Peace Council representatives and Afghan Taliban delegation from its Qatar political office. India and the United States were present in the meeting as observers.
At the meeting, Pakistan’s delegation also underscored that all stakeholders had shared responsibility to help create favorable conditions for a result-oriented peace process as there was no military solution to the Afghan issue.
It highlighted the brotherly sentiments of the people of Pakistan for their brothers and sisters in Afghanistan.
Pakistan’s positive approach and consistent efforts to promote peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan through initiatives acceptable to the entire Afghan nation and the futility of military-intensive approach which had resulted in colossal human losses and compounded miseries of the people of Afghanistan was particularly highlighted.
The Pakistani delegation noted that the phrase “Afghan-owned, Afghan-led” peace process, coined by Pakistan several years ago, had now been adopted as an international guiding principle in charting the collective way forward to achieving peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.
It also signified Pakistan’s respect for Afghan sovereignty and the desire to empowering the Afghan nation to take its destiny in its own hands.
The Moscow meetings ended without the sides agreeing on a path to direct dialogue, the delegations from the Taliban and Kabul’s High Peace Council said.
“This conference was not about direct talks,” Taliban spokesman Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai told journalists in translated comments quoted by Interfax news agency.
The Taliban “do not recognise the current government as legal and therefore we won’t hold talks with them”, he said. “Considering our main demand is the withdrawal of foreign forces, we will discuss a peaceful resolution with the Americans.”
Russia says the Moscow talks marked the first time that a Taliban delegation had taken part in such high-level international meeting.
Afghan delegation member Hajji Din Mohammad told journalists that Russia invited them to a new meeting but that “agreement was not reached on holding direct talks” with the Taliban, RIA Novosti news agency reported.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had said as the talks opened that Russia hoped “through joint efforts to open a new page in the history of Afghanistan”.
He said the participation of both Afghan leaders and the Taliban was an “important contribution” aimed at creating “favourable conditions for the start of direct talks”.
“I am counting on you holding a serious and constructive conversation that will justify the hopes of the Afghan people,” he said before the rest of the meeting was held behind closed doors at a Moscow hotel.
The Taliban sent five representatives to Moscow but insisted they would not hold any negotiations with the delegation from Kabul.
The Afghan delegation was made up of four representatives of the High Peace Council, a government body responsible for reconciliation efforts with the militants, spokesman Sayed Ihsan Taheri said.
The Afghan foreign ministry emphasised that the council did not represent the Afghan government at the meeting, however, but was acting as a “national” non-government institution.
Pakistan hailed their presence at the talks.
The US embassy in Moscow sent a representative to observe the discussions.
Meanwhile, US special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, will visit Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar from Nov 8 to 20 to push for peace negotiations with the Afghan Taliban, the State Department said on Thursday.
Moscow Format was initiated in December 2016. Its membership gradually increased to eleven last year. It signifies a growing consensus among regional countries for jointly promoting peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.
It offers an opportunity to participants to exchange views on the prevailing situation in Afghanistan and its implications for the region, in particular for countries bordering Afghanistan.
The participants of today’s meeting candidly expressed their views about deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan and the threat it posed to the neighboring countries, which have been most affected by the Afghan conflict.
All delegations thanked the Government of the Russian Federation for its initiative and the hospitality extended