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Roadmap for peace between Afghanistan & Taliban groups important: Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz has said Pakistan firmly believes in a politically negotiated settlement through an all inclusive intra-Afghan reconciliation process which will contribute to our shared goal of lasting peace in Afghanistan.

Aziz was speaking at the third meeting of the Quadrilateral Contact Group (QCG) on Afghan reconciliation process in Islamabad on Saturday. The group comprises of Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United States and China.

Aziz said, Pakistan deeply appreciates the commitment and efforts of the Afghan National Unity government for promoting durable peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan through political settlement. “We also commend the constructive role of the United States and China for facilitating the peace process.”

“This Quadrilateral process is a manifestation of our shared commitment to undertake joint efforts for realizing the goal of reducing violence and achieving long term peace and stability in Afghanistan and our region”, the Prime Minister’s Adviser said.

He said the Group has made steady progress in its first two meetings, demonstrating clarity as well as seriousness of purpose. In the Kabul meeting on 18 January, the QCG’s call on the Taliban groups to enter into early talks with the Afghan government without preconditions is a reiteration of a strong message by the international community for peace talks in order to find a basis for enduring political settlement in Afghanistan.

He expressed hope that continuing with this spirit and resolve, the Group will now focus on the early adoption of a roadmap for the reconciliation process and identify the way forward for holding direct peace talks between the representatives of the government of Afghanistan and Taliban groups as early as possible.

Aziz that Pakistan fully shares Afghanistan’s concern that increasing violence is a key challenge, and its reduction should be an important objective of peace talks. “We are confident that the process would lead to a significant reduction of violence.”

He said in our view, a clear, well-defined and actionable roadmap for the peace process between the Afghan Government and Taliban groups is important. It should identify and stipulate various stages of the process while measuring the progress being made at each stage. It should also serve to convey positive signals about unflinching commitment of the parties to the peace process.

As regards the peace process, we believe our collective efforts at this stage, including through supportive CBMs have to be aimed at persuading maximum number of Taliban groups to join the peace talks, Aziz said. This will contribute to imparting a momentum to the process offering incentive of political mainstreaming to the insurgent groups, and gradually shrink the space for the irreconcilables.

He said this quadrilateral framework is based on our mutual consensus that political reconciliation is the most viable option for promoting long term peace and stability in Afghanistan. Therefore, we have to exert all our efforts and energies on keeping the process on track. Persistence and perseverance will be required for guarding against theimpediments, avoiding a situation like that witnessed in July last year.

Foreign Office Spokesman Qazi Khalilullah in an earlier statemend said that representatives of the four participating countries will discuss ways and means to advance the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan.

The senior officials of Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and the US attending the meeting.

AFP adds:  Pakistan said as many Taliban groups as possible must be persuaded to join any upcoming peace discussions with the Afghan government, as a third round of four-country talks aimed at reviving negotiations with the insurgent group began on February 6.

Pakistan’s adviser for foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz said a joint effort would help persuade the Taliban to join the process and lead to a “significant” reduction in violence.

“We believe our collective efforts at this stage, including through supportive CBMs (Confidence Building Measures), have to be aimed at persuading the maximum number of Taliban groups to join the peace talks,” Aziz said during his opening statement at the third-round of talks on Saturday.

The first round of the roadmap talks was held in Islamabad last month, where delegates began laying the groundwork for direct dialogue between Kabul and the Islamist group.

A second round was held in Kabul on January 18 which urged the Taliban groups to enter into early talks with the Afghan government without preconditions. Taliban representatives have been notably absent during the process and analysts caution that any substantive talks are still a long way off.

The Taliban has stepped up attacks on government and foreign targets in Afghanistan this winter, when fighting usually abates, underscoring a worsening security situation.

Observers say the intensifying insurgency highlights a push by the militants to seize more territory in an attempt to wrangle greater concessions during talks.

Afghanistan sees the support of Pakistan as vital to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table

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