Pakistan urges Afghan Taliban to join peace talks

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Islamabad, April 14 (IANS) Pakistan pushed the Afghan Taliban on Thursday to join peace negotiations, two days after the group launched their annual fighting season that could further complicate efforts for the dialogue.

The Taliban last month refused to take part in direct talks with the Afghan government under the Quadrilateral Coordination Group QCG), Xinhua news agency reported. Pakistan had agreed to host the talks.

“It is in the interest of all groups in Afghanistan to participate in the process as this is the best hope to bring peace in Afghanistan and the entire region,” foreign ministry spokesman Nafees Zikriya said.

“We believe that a politically negotiated settlement is the best option for bringing lasting peace to Afghanistan,” Zikriya said.

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He reiterated that Pakistan had higher stakes in Afghanistan peace than any other country and that Islamabad was “determined and serious in ensuring that peace returns to Afghanistan because it is not only in our interest but also the entire region”.

US special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Olson visited Islamabad this week for talks with military leaders and senior diplomats to review options for the next QCG meeting and the overall peace process, officials say.

The spokesman said the US envoy and Pakistan Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry had discussed “prospects of next QCG meeting and the situation in Afghanistan and both sides agreed that it should be held at the earliest on a mutually convenient date”.

Olson had also visited Kabul prior to his visit to Pakistan. There he exchanged views with Afghan leaders on how to begin the peace talks.

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Afghan sources in Islamabad insist that despite the Taliban’s public refusal, some “background consultations” were on that were seen helpful in the peace initiative.

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