ISLAMABAD: Peace talks between the Afghan government and Taliban are likely to resume as early as the next week, Voice of America quoted Pakistani officials as saying.“An internationally guaranteed and monitored peace process is likely to get underway next week,” the officials, requesting anonymity, told VOA. They said that Pakistan wants an international presence in the entire process because of the long history of mistrust and suspicions between Pakistan and Afghanistan.The development stemmed from a string of bilateral, trilateral and quadrilateral meetings in Islamabad involving Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, and top American and Chinese officials. The discussions took place on the sidelines of an annual regional conference on Afghanistan.
The officials told VOA that Pakistan at the meetings laid out both its leverage and limitations with factions of the Afghan insurgency and assured all participants that Islamabad will do whatever it can to bring at least those to the [negotiating] table who are under its influence.Speaking at a news conference after the meetings, Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani confirmed an understanding has been reached on starting the reconciliation talks with the Taliban. He said that all stakeholders agreed the surest way to peace and stability in Afghanistan was through negotiations.“Our allies, in this case US and China and of course Pakistan, have expressed their willingness to work with Afghanistan on peace and reconciliation process. And we very much hope that his effort will result in a result-oriented peace process where we will see some positive moves in the coming weeks …but we hope that this will start as soon as possible.”
The Afghan minister said there are no new terms and conditions from the government for starting peace talks with the Taliban, adding both the sides can discuss it once the process begins. “We will welcome all those opposition elements who renounce violence, accept Afghanistan’s constitution, disarm and join the reconciliation process,” Rabbani added. There is no immediate reaction from Taliban about its participation in the talks.
When asked whether Kabul trusts Islamabad’s commitment to help promote the Afghan peace, Rabbani said the Pakistani leadership at the meetings reassured that peace in Afghanistan was vital for stability in their own country. “We hope they will sincerely and honestly cooperate with Afghanistan to make the reconciliation result-oriented,” he said.Pakistani officials described the agreement to resume Afghan peace talks as a major step and expected a lot of work and consultations before the peace negotiations, without disclosing their location. The previous Pakistan-brokered Afghan peace dialogue took place near Islamabad in July but it was halted after the announcement of the death of long-time Taliban leader Mullah Omar.