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QCG calls for direct talks between Afghan govt, Taliban

Afghans need lasting peace, stability: Sartaj Aziz

AT Monitoring Desk-KABUL: The third meeting of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) ended in Islamabad on Saturday with a call for face-to-face talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban by the end of this month (February).

A statement released at the end of the meeting said that a roadmap for the stalled peace process had been agreed upon. But, no further details were provided. The QCG asked the Taliban to join the reconciliation process. The fourth meeting will be held in Kabul on February 23. Taliban representatives were not present in the meeting.

Reaffirming his country’s firm commitment to lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan and regional countries, Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Advisor Sartaj Aziz said that Afghans have suffered a lot from the cycle of violence.

He told this at the third round of Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) meeting between representatives of Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United States and China has concluded in Islamabad on Saturday. They gathered in Islamabad to finalize a roadmap how to resume peace talks between Afghan government and Taliban.

Addressing the four-nation representatives on Afghan peace process, Sartaj Aziz said that political reconciliation is the most viable option for promoting long-term peace and stability in Afghanistan. He added that participating countries must apply all efforts to keep the peace process on track.

“The people of Afghanistan have been suffering from an unending cycle of violence for decades. They need lasting peace and stability,” Aziz was quoted as saying by Express Tribune.

“A clear and well defined road-map for peace talks between the government of Afghanistan and Taliban is of crucial importance. It should identify and stipulate various stages of the process while measuring the progress made at each stage,” he added.

“The road-map must also serve to convey positive signals about the unflinching commitment of parties to the peace process,” the adviser said while addressing the meeting.

“It is really encouraging that the Group has made steady progress in its first two meetings, demonstrating clarity as well as seriousness of purpose. In the Kabul meeting on January 18, 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,” Aziz stated.

Commenting on Pakistan’s stance on eliminating terrorism, Aziz said, “Pakistan shares Afghanistan’s concern that increasing violence is a key challenge and its reduction should be an important objective for the peace talks.”

“We require collective effort from all QCG countries at this stage, to persuade maximum number of Taliban groups to join the talks. This will not only be beneficial in terms of lasting peace and stability, but will also shrink space for the irreconcilable,” he added.

“I am hopeful that continuing this spirit and resolve, the group will now focus on identifying a way forward for holding direct peace talks between the government of Afghanistan and Taliban as early as possible,” said Aziz.

Deputy Foreign Minister Hikmat Khalil Karzai presented Afghanistan in the QCG meeting. He was also leading the Afghan delegation. Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry was also attending the meeting.

In the four-way talks, Pakistani official once again renewed commitment to long-term peace and stability in Afghanistan.

First round of QCG meeting was held in Islamabad where the representatives of four-nation agreed to hold second round of talks in Kabul.  While Kabul hosted second round of talks, the four-nation representatives has focused on the roadmap for talks with the Taliban.

It is worth mentioning that first face-to-face talks between Afghan government and Taliban were held in Pakistan, but was stalled soon after the Taliban revealed the death report of their longtime leader, Mullah Omar. The death report also led to the widening rift among the Taliban commanders.

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