Four-nation group to discuss prospects for Afghan peace process

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Islamabad, May 16 (IANS) Top diplomats each from Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and the US are scheduled to meet in Islamabad on May 18 to discuss ways to start the peace talks in Afghanistan, officials said on Sunday.

This would be the first meeting of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) since the Taliban have refused to take part in the direct talks with the Afghan government.

The QCG in its last meeting in Kabul in February had invited the insurgents to join the process by the first week of March.

The meeting is seen very important as Afghanistan is now pushing for action against the Taliban as they are unwilling to come to the negotiation table and launched their annual Spring Offensive, Xinhua reported.

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The Taliban suicide bombing in Kabul on April 19 that killed 64 people and injured nearly 350 has badly affected efforts for the peace negotiations.

President Ashraf Ghani in his parliament speech on April 25th had prioritised war with the Taliban.

The Afghan government now wants the QCG to opt for action against the Taliban. However, Pakistan still insists on the political negotiations.

Pakistan has been impressing upon the US and Afghan side that the reconciliation process needs to be given a fair chance and more time, Pakistan Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz recently told the Senate.

“Irreconcilable elements can be targeted after concerted efforts of negotiations have failed. We hope to discuss these issues in detail during the upcoming round of the QCG in Islamabad on 18-19 May,” Aziz said.

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Afghan ambassador in Islamabad, Omar Zakhilwal, said on Sunday that Kabul now calls on the QCG to pronounce the Taliban as “irreconcilable” because they have publicly rejected the talks.

Zakhilwal said on Sunday that the QCG in its meeting in Kabul had agreed on a roadmap in February and that Kabul hopes the grouping will implement its decisions.

The roadmap is precisely about the steps that the QCG member countries needed to in their respective relevant domains in both during peace talks if they began and also if Taliban refused to join talks. Now that the Taliban publicly refused to join talks and opted for more violence the second scenario is applicable, Zakhilwal said.

A delegation of the Taliban political negotiators from the Qatar office had arrived in Pakistan in late April for exploratory talks on the possible peace process. However, the Afghan government refused to sit with the Taliban because of increased Taliban violence.

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