Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States are set to revive trilateral talks after a nearly seven-month deadlock, Afghan diplomats and foreign ministry officials said on Friday.
Officials from the three countries last met in Islamabad in September last year, few days before the tragic assassination of Afghan peace envoy Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani.
Kabul had suspended high-level contacts with Islamabad, saying the killing was planned in Pakistan and carried out by a Pakistani suicide bomber. Islamabad had dismissed the charges as baseless and assured cooperation in a joint probe. The Afghan reconciliation process also hit a stumbling block when Pakistani-US relations hit an all-time low after US air strikes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November last year.
However, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar’s visit to Kabul and President Hamid Karzai’s trip to Islamabad last month marked the revival of high-level contacts between the two countries and now senior diplomats from the two countries and the US are scheduled to meet in Tajikistan on March 25 (Sunday), an Afghan diplomat and a foreign ministry official told The Express Tribune.
The Afghan diplomat and the Pakistani official, requesting anonymity, said that US Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan March Grossman and Afghan Deputy Minister Javed Ludin would also be in attendance during the meeting. Pakistan would be represented by Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani.
Earlier, Pakistan had refused to welcome Marc Grossman ‘in view of the parliamentary review’ that was in its final stages.
The trilateral meeting will be held a day ahead of the Fifth Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA V) in Dushanbe on March 26-27. President Asif Ali Zardari is also scheduled to travel to Dushanbe to attend the conference, which will consider various proposals and projects aimed at boosting regional cooperation with Afghanistan.
High-ranking delegations from some 80 countries of the world as well as international and regional organisations are expected to attend the Dushanbe conference.
The Afghan-Pakistan-US meet will be held at a time when Taliban have broken off talks with the US in Qatar, citing unacceptable demands by the US.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told The Express Tribune that the talks have not yet been resumed and the Taliban still await a ‘positive’ response to their three major demands.
Listing the demands, he said the Taliban have proposed the release of some of their prisoners, removal of Taliban leaders’ names from the UN sanctions lists and recognition of the Taliban political office in Qatar.
“The US must show a positive response to our demands to build trust,” the Taliban spokesman said.
Pakistan to reach out to Afghan Taliban
An Afghan source, privy to last month’s talks between Karzai and the government told The Express Tribune that Pakistan had assured Afghan leaders to ‘reach out to the Taliban’ and encourage them to hold an intra-Afghan dialogue.
Taliban have so far ignored last month’s appeal from Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani to the Afghan armed groups to begin an intra-Afghan dialogue and Talban spokesman again said Wednesday that the Political Commission has not yet made any decision to respond to Gilani’s appeal.
The trilateral meet assumes importance in the wake of the deadlock in talks between the Taliban and the US.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 24th, 2012.