KABUL - The four-nation group on Afghan peace process has urged the Taliban to initiate talks with the Afghan government at earliest.
The demand was made at the second meeting of the Quadrilateral Contact Group in Kabul on Monday.
Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry represented Pakistan at the meeting, which was also attended by the representatives of Afghanistan, China, and the US.
According to the joint statement issued after the meeting, the group emphasised resolution of all political differences and solution to the issue in accordance with the wishes of the Afghan people. The member countries expressed the resolve to eliminate all types of terrorist groups.
The statement said that cordial relations based on mutual cooperation among the member countries were vital for Afghan peace and reconciliation process. The next meeting of the group would be held in Islamabad on February 6th.
In his opening address, Afghan Minister for Foreign Affairs Salahuddin Rabbani urged all Taliban groups to accept government’s call for peace through dialogue. “I wish to reiterate that early restoration of peace in Afghanistan is the demand and desire of every Afghan citizen, and a precondition for peace in the wider region, especially in Pakistan,” he said.
He said that the Afghan nation had suffered more than enough from years of senseless violence and destruction. “There isn’t a single Afghan family that hasn’t been affected by the daily acts of brutal and deadly terrorism carried out across our cities, towns, and villages,” he said.
“Our children – girls and boys – are attacked on their way to school and our mosques and public places are blown up all in the name of a noble religion, which in reality stands for peace and peaceful coexistence,’ the minister said.
“That is why, once again, on behalf of the people and government of Afghanistan, I take this opportunity and call on all Taliban groups to accept our call for peace through dialogue, and to come to the table for talks so that we can resolve all differences politically and ensure the rightful and just desire of the Afghan people for lasting peace, strongly supported by members of this Quadrilateral Coordination Group,” he said.
The Afghan foreign minister said that any further delay on the part of the Taliban to come to the table for talks now would further isolate them in the eyes of the Afghan people. “Those who would miss this opportunity to join the peace process will indicate clearly that a sovereign, independent, stable, peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan is not in their interest, and that their objectives are only terror and destruction,” he said.
He said that the QCG was to meet as a result of extensive preparations and discussions between Pakistan, Afghanistan, the US and China. “Our hope is that this group will find ways to collectively deal with those refusing to come to talks,” he said.
“Now we hope today’s [Monday] meeting will sustain the good momentum of this overall effort and of the Islamabad meeting last week,” Rabbani said.
“We attach unique importance to the many discussions and decisions in this framework so far to determine specific mechanisms for working and collaborating together more effectively to ensure peace and stability in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the region,” he said.
He said that the Afghan government was encouraged by the collective will of the group to robustly support a result-oriented peace process that would put an end to the war. “We are also encouraged specifically by the repeated strong commitment of the leadership of Pakistan during this time to cooperate with us on a range of issues, including counter-terrorism and facilitating a result-oriented peace and reconciliation process, the progress of which is to be effectively monitored by this group,” he said.
He said that the government and the people of Afghanistan were confident that with the support of the US and China, an effective peace process would be launched, which would generate positive results in a timely manner.
“While we understand achieving a lasting peace would require patience and determination, it is equally important to keep in mind that the Afghan public will not accept an open-ended process without tangible results. Therefore, as we move forward, Afghan people will judge our success by the sense of urgency we muster here,” he said.
He urged for an effective roadmap which not only focus on rigid pre-conditions but must provide redlines for strict compliance to ensure the integrity of a meaningful process and to honour the sacrifices of the Afghan nation.
“I can say with utmost assurance that we, the people and government of Afghanistan are prepared, as we have always been and as we have repeatedly stated, to enter into peace talks with the Taliban groups in good faith to reach a peaceful settlement, which respects the Afghan Constitution and the many hard-earned gains of the Afghan people over the past 14 years, especially the human rights of Afghan women and girls,” he said.