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Pak, Afghanistan, China, US push for direct talks with Taliban

Hekmat Khalil Karzai, Sartaj Aziz, Richard Olson

Islamabad :  A four-nation group involving the US, Afghanistan, Pakistan and China has pushed for immediate direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban to end the conflict in the war-torn country.

“The participants emphasised the immediate need for direct talks between representatives of the government of Afghanistan and representatives from Taliban groups in a peace process that aims to preserve Afghanistan’s unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity,” a joint statement said after the meeting here yesterday.

“The group would hold discussions on a roadmap at its next meeting to be held on 18th January 2016 in Kabul,” it said.

The group was set up last year to facilitate the reconciliation process in the war-torn country. The talks came as Taliban waged an unprecedented winter campaign of violence.

All the four countries underscored the importance of bringing an end to the conflict in Afghanistan that continues to inflict senseless violence on the Afghan people and also breeds insecurity throughout the region, it added.

The delegations were led by Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai, Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Ambassador Richard G Olson and China’s Special Envoy for Afghanistan Ambassador Deng Xijun.

The discussions focused on undertaking a clear and realistic assessment of the opportunities for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan, anticipated obstacles and measures that would help create conducive environment for peace talks with the shared goal of reducing violence and establishing lasting peace in Afghanistan, the statement said.

The meeting adopted the terms for the work of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group and agreed to continue regular meetings to advance the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan.

The participants reiterated the commitment of their countries to the realisation of objectives expressed in their statement from the quadrilateral meeting held on the sidelines of the Heart of Asia Conference here on December 9, 2015.

“Building on the outcome of December 9 trilateral and quadrilateral meetings, they considered mutual efforts to facilitate an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process with a view to achieving lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region,” it added.

The first round of talks was held in July but the process was suspended in the same month after news of Taliban chief Mullah Omar’s death was announced. Officials from Pakistan, China and US were present when Taliban leaders and the Afghan government met in Murree near here during the first round.

According to officials, the second round may take place towards the end of January if the four nations agreed on the minimum agenda of talks.

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