Pakistan against preconditions in Afghan-Taliban talks

Islamabad, Jan 11 (IANS) Pakistan on Monday opposed preconditions in talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban and suggested incentives to encourage the insurgents to come to the negotiations table.

Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan’s foreign affairs adviser, floated the proposal in his speech at the opening session of the four-nation talks to explore ways for promoting reconciliation process in Afghanistan, Xinhua reports.

The quadrilateral process involving Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and the US was launched during a meeting of the four countries on the sidelines of the Heart of Asia Conference held in Islamabad last month.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif were present in the meeting, which was also attended by senior officials of China and the US.

“The primary objective of the reconciliation process is to create conditions to bring the Taliban groups to the negotiation table and offer them incentives that can persuade them to move away from using violence as tool for pursuing political goals,” Aziz said.

“It is, therefore, important that pre-conditions are not attached to the start of the negotiation process. This in our view will be counter-productive,” he said.

The participants would share ideas to end the deadlock in the Pakistan-brokered talks between Kabul and the Taliban.

The first ever direct talks between representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban were held in Pakistan in July but the process was scuttled after the death of Mullah Omar was confirmed.

Aziz defended a political solution to the problem and that reconciliation through a politically negotiated settlement was an arduous and complex task.

He said proper sequencing of actions and measures in the process would be significant in paving the way for direct talks with Taliban groups.

“Threat of the use of military action against irreconcilables cannot precede the offer of talks to all the groups and their response to such offers.

“Distinction between reconcileables and irreconcilables and how to deal with the irreconcilables can follow once the avenues for bringing them to the talks have been exhausted,” Aziz said.

He argued that certain confidence building measures can play a key role in encouraging Taliban groups to join the negotiation process.

The Taliban have not officially commented on the four-nation talks. But a section of the media has quoted Taliban leaders as saying that they would not hold talks with the Afghan government.

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