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Afghan peace deal: Islamabad, Beijing ready to become ‘guarantors’

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and China are ready to become ‘guarantors’ of a possible peace deal between the Afghan government and the Afghan Taliban, officials familiar with the development have said.

“We are ready to go the extra mile. We are even willing to become guarantors for any peace agreement,” said a senior Pakistani official, who requested not to be named because of sensitivity of the issue.

The official said Pakistan has been facilitating Afghan led and Afghan owned peace talks. “But if talks make progress and all sides agree, then Pakistan has no problem in playing its role beyond that of a facilitator,” he said.

Pakistan recently hosted the first-ever direct talks between the Afghan government and Taliban representatives at the popular tourist resort of Murree as part of its efforts to put an end to over a decade-old conflict in the war-torn country. Senior officials from Pakistan, China and the United States also attended the closed-door talks suggesting that the Murree process had the backing of all major international players.

During the talks, the Afghan side demanded immediate ceasefire from the Afghan Taliban. However, the Taliban reportedly agreed to cease fire if Islamabad and Beijing become ‘guarantors’ to ensure that a ‘United National Government’ will be formed in Afghanistan. Another official said China is also ready to provide guarantees if all the negotiating parties accept this arrangement. Following the Murree talks, China had hinted at playing a more proactive role in brokering a peace deal between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

A statement issued by the Chinese foreign ministry said Beijing was ready to work with relevant parties and play a constructive role in achieving broad and inclusive peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.

The next round of talks is expected to take place in China later this month. As a result of forward movement in Murree talks, the next phase of negotiations will be led by the Afghan foreign minister.

The two sides are expected to discuss substantive issues in the next round as a result of the recent endorsement of the peace process by Afghan Taliban’s supreme leader Mullah Omar.—(Express Tribune)

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