Four Country Talks On Afghan Peace Begin In Islamabad

Written by  Published by:Pakistan Views Monday, 11 January 2016 17:13

ISLAMABAD: Delegates from Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States sat down on Monday for talks to resurrect a stalled Afghan peace process and end nearly 15 years of bloodshed fighting Taliban insurgents.

Senior officials from the four countries are meeting in Islamabad in what they hope will be a first step towards resuming stalled negotiations involving the Taliban. The Taliban are not expected to attend the talks.

The prime minister's foreign affairs adviser, Sartaj Aziz, opened the meeting, saying the primary goal should be to convince the Taliban to come to the negotiating table and consider giving up violence.

"It is therefore important that preconditions are not attached to the start of the negotiation process. This we argue will be counterproductive," he said.

"The threat of use of military action against irreconcilables cannot precede the offer of talks to all the groups."

Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Karzai and Pakistani Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry were joined by Richard Olson, the US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan and General Anthony Rock, the top US defence representative in Pakistan, as well as China's special envoy on Afghanistan affairs, Deng Xijun.

"It'll be an opportunity to further our partnership with Afghanistan, Pakistan and China in support of an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned reconciliation, which is what we've said all along we want to see," US State Department spokesman John Kirby said.

"We're obviously looking forward to trying to make some progress here on what has been a very difficult issue."

The militants have stepped up their violent campaign in the last year to oust the government in Kabul that is struggling after most foreign troops left at the end of 2014. High-profile suicide attacks in the capital and major territorial losses in Helmand province have underlined how far the country remains from peace without major Taliban factions on board.

A previous fledging peace process last year was stopped after the Taliban announced that its founder Mullah Omar had been dead for two years, throwing the militant group into disarray and factional infighting.

Kabul has been trying to limit expectations of a breakthrough at Islamabad talks, and has said the aim is to work out a road map for peace negotiations and a way of assessing if they remain on track.

Afghanistan last month turned to Pakistan for help in reviving the peace talks. The Taliban are split on whether to participate in any future talks. Some elements within the group have signalled they may be willing to send negotiators at some point, but other factions remain opposed to any form of negotiation with Kabul.

Afghanistan suffered one of its bloodiest years on record in 2015. The number of civilians killed is expected to have surpassed the record high of more than 3,180 Afghan civilians killed in 2014, the United Nations said, which brought the number killed since 2009 to more than 17,000.

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