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Islamabad wants Taliban to negotiate with Afghan govt

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan wants the Taliban to give up their refusal to talk to the Afghan government so that a political settlement of the 17-year-old conflict could be negotiated.

“We want them to sit together. It is for Afghans to sort out their problems and as long as they do not sit down and talk to each other, outsiders can do little to help them,” Foreign Minis­ter Shah Mehmood Qureshi said in a conversation with Dawn on Thursday.

Pakistan last month facilitated a meeting between the United States and the Tali­ban in Abu Dhabi, which was also attended by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The talks were described as “positive” and “productive” by the UAE and the US, but Taliban have remained stuck to their position that they would not talk to the government in Kabul, which they call a “puppet regime”. The insurgent group instead wants to first reach a settlement with the US on the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan.

Qureshi says outsiders can do little to help Afghans overcome war if they do not sit together

Criticising Taliban’s refusal to talk to Afghan government, Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah on Wednesday said that as long as that did not happen the hopes of ending the conflict would remain a pipe dream.

Another round of talks to build on Abu Dhabi meeting is expected later this month.

Meanwhile, Foreign Off­ice spokesman Dr Moham­mad Faisal in a tweet emphasised Pakistan’s commitment to an intra-Afghan dialogue. “Pakistan is facilitating efforts for a peaceful solution in Afghanistan. We believe that an intra-Afghan dialogue is the only way to a successful negotiated settlement,” he wrote in a post on the microblogging site.

Asked about the prospects for this impasse on initiation of an intra-Afghan process being overcome, Foreign Minister Qureshi appeared hopeful and recalled that till lately “no one could have thought of US and Taliban representatives sitting under one roof and talking to each other, but that happened”.

Mr Qureshi late last month undertook a whirlwind regional tour visiting Afghanistan, Iran, China and Russia to take their leaderships on board about the latest Pakistani effort to revive talks that have been stalled since July 2015, when they broke down over a leak that insurgency’s leader Mullah Omar had been long dead. Later, he travelled to Doha for the same purpose.

Earlier this week, Mr Qureshi during a meeting with Afghan president’s special envoy for regional consensus for Afghan peace Umer Daudzai in Islamabad assured him that Pakistan would do all to help the people of Afghanistan see the earliest possible end to bloodshed. US special envoy for Afghan peace and reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad is due in Islamabad next week.

Talking about his regional contacts, the foreign minister said a regional convergence about ending the war in Afghanistan through a political settlement had emerged. Pakistan, Afghan­is­tan, US and Taliban, he maintained, were “on the same page” that there had to be a political solution. Russia, China, and Iran also agree with this position, he added.

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