Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday reiterated the country’s resolve to further the Afghan peace process and highlighted Islamabad’s role in the ongoing US-Taliban negotiations aimed at bringing the now 17-year-old conflict to an end.
Referring to Monday’s round of negotiations between the US and the Taliban – brokered by Pakistan and held in Abu Dhabi – the premier hoped that talks lead to an end of “almost three decades of suffering of the brave Afghan people”.
“Pakistan has helped in the dialogue between Taliban and the US in Abu Dhabi,” PM Imran said in a tweet. “Let us pray that this leads to peace and ends almost three decades of suffering of the brave Afghan people.”
The prime minister also assured that “Pakistan will be doing everything within its power to further the peace process”.
The latest push to end the 17-year-long conflict in Afghanistan was attended by representatives from Pakistan, the UAE and Saudi Arabia. The US believes that Pakistan still holds considerable sway over the Taliban and hence it can play a crucial role in brokering a deal.
The Afghan Taliban spokesperson confirmed the group’s participation in the talks but insisted that they would not talk to the Afghan government.
The direct talks between the US and the Taliban came just days after the US President Donald Trump wrote a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan, seeking his help for a negotiated settlement of the Afghan war. Trump had urged Khan to help facilitate a meeting between the American officials and the Taliban.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced in late November the establishment of a 12-person negotiating team to talk peace with the Taliban. According to AFP, the Taliban have consistently refused to meet with the Kabul government, however, and civilians continue to pay a disproportionate price in Afghanistan as attacks continue.
The Taliban issued another statement Monday repeating their long-standing refusal to meet with representatives of the government in Kabul and insisting they will only speak with US officials.
This is the second time Pakistan has arranged direct talks between US and Taliban.
In 2016, Pakistan brokered the first-ever face to face talks between the Taliban and the US and Afghan government representatives in Murree. Officials from Pakistan and China were also present at the moot. The process could not move forward after news of the death of Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar was leaked to the media by an Afghan official.
Pakistan blamed elements within Afghanistan for scuttling the budding peace process. The development subsequently strained relationship between Islamabad and Kabul.