ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s foreign policy wizard Sartaj Aziz said on Monday that ‘key leaders of the Afghan Taliban’ had attended last week’s rare face-to-face meeting with Afghan government officials in Murree with the approval of their Central Leadership Council.
Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Khalil Hekmat Karzai, who had led the high-level delegation from Kabul in the talks with the Taliban on July 7, had earlier confirmed his team had met influential Taliban leaders.
“The people we met in Pakistan were representing Akhtar Mansoor (Taliban’s acting chief) and their Central Shura (council),” Karzai had told the media in Kabul upon his return from Murree. He was confident of converting the ‘Murree Peace Process’ into formal dialogue.
Read: Kabul-Taliban talks: a breakthrough
Sartaj Aziz hopes more Taliban would join Afghan peace talks that could give a boost to the process. The Murree rendezvous has rekindled hopes for durable peace in Afghanistan. Still there are concerns that ‘opponents of peace’ could try to derail the process. “Yes, there will be some people who could try to sabotage the peace process,” Aziz said.
Aziz was confident that progress in dialogue would lead to restoration of peace in the strife-torn country. “Everyone hopes that hostilities will cease with the continuation of the process,” he told The Express Tribune in a brief chat at the foreign ministry where he briefed the media about Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s recent meeting with his Indian counterpart in the Russian city of Ufa.
Aziz is satisfied with the outcome of the Murree meeting. “It was very productive. It was the first time Afghan government officials and the Taliban sat across the table. The talks were open. It is a good beginning and we will see how it proceeds,” he added. "I’m satisfied with the process. I call it a breakthrough."
Read: Doubts and divisions among commanders as Taliban talk peace
The role of the Taliban’s political office in Qatar is important for any fruitful talks and the Taliban leadership has long been insisting the Qatar office be assigned the task of pursuing political affairs. A spokesman for the Qatar office, Dr Muhammad Naeem, said no Qatar-based member had taken part in the Murree talks.
Aziz, however, hopes participation of the Qatar office would come through. “As the Taliban’s important leaders had attended the talks with the approval of the central council, the Qatar office will follow what the Taliban central leadership decides,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 14th, 2015.
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