Afghan Taliban delegation meet PM Imran Khan

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US-Taliban close in on deal as Ghani reports progress

ISLAMABAD: A delegation of the Taliban Political Commission (TPC) in Doha led by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar on Thursday held an important meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan as part of negotiations to end persisting deadlock with the U.S. regarding Afghan peace process and – an end to bloodthirsty war in Afghanistan.
Reportedly, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa and Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Major General Asif Ghafoor among other senior officials were also present in the meeting.
Earlier today, the Taliban held key talks with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan.
According to reports, more than 12 Taliban representatives arrived in Islamabad and a delegation from Qatar is also likely to join the dialogue.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi led the talks from Pakistani side of the government and affirmed that Pakistan would continue its efforts to facilitate the Afghan reconciliation process. The team is also likely to meet US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad, who is already in Islamabad.
Political experts are considering participation of Qatar and Saudi Arabia in the talks at the same time a “breakthrough” to achieve peace in the war-torn country.
In his talk to the media, Mr Qureshi outlined ‘brotherly bilateral’ relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan and stated: “The reconciliation process is a shared responsibility for achieving peace in Afghanistan.”
“For 40 years of instability in Afghanistan, we have been facing equal consequences […] It is a sign of happiness that the international community has endorsed Pakistan’s stance on the situation in Afghanistan,” he said. “For peace and stability of the entire region, achieving peace in Afghanistan is critical.”
Mr Qureshi shared that the Taliban delegation has appreciated Pakistan’s role as the state genuinely believes that the war is not a solution to any of the problems. “Only dialogue is the appropriate and sole solution to the crisis.”
Both sides expressed the need of urgent restoration of halted peace talks. Besides, the meeting has discussed the entire regional peace and security situation.
Importantly, U.S. Special Envoy for Afghan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad has mentioned that the U.S. leadership appreciates Pakistan’s efforts for peace in Afghanistan. He thanked Mr Qureshi for making possible the direct talks between the U.S. and the Taliban leadership.
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said that the delegation would discuss “important issues” during meetings.
Earlier, Shaheen said that Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a co-founder of the Taliban and head of their political office in Qatar, will lead the 11-member delegation during talks on important issues with Pakistani officials in Islamabad.
The Taliban’s Doha-based spokesman, Shaheen told foreign news agency that the simultaneous visits to Pakistan of US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and the Taliban were a “coincidence”.
But when asked whether there was any possibility of the insurgents meeting with Khalilzad, he replied: “Why not? It depends on the Americans.”
The Taliban are still ready to sign the agreement which Khalilzad and Baradar had hashed out in Doha, he said.
“We have not backtracked from the agreement, we stand for it. The Americans have backtracked and they will have to take the initiative.” Talks were the only way forward, he added.
“There is no military solution to Afghanistan. The Americans did their best for 18 years… but they were not able to solve this issue,” Shaheen said.
“Better to sign the agreement, and then we will have a ceasefire with the Americans, and then intra-Afghan talks will be started immediately” to discuss issues “including a future government and a ceasefire. So that’s the solution to the problem,” he told foreign news agency.
On Tuesday, US Special Envoy for Afghan Reconciliation Amb Zalmay Khalilzad also arrived in Islamabad for discussions with Pakistani civil and military leadership on reviving peace talks with Afghan Taliban.
A US official, who spoke to foreign news agency on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media, said Khalilzad is not in Islamabad to resume the peace process.
Rather the US peace envoy will follow up on discussions he held with Pakistani leaders, including Prime Minister Imran Khan, during the UN General Assembly session in New York.
It wasn’t immediately known if Khalilzad will meet with Taliban leader Baradar. The two men held several one-on-one meetings during the many rounds of negotiations held in Qatar where the Taliban maintain a political office.
The Taliban would inform Pakistan’s leadership of the factors that derailed the talks with the United States aimed at striking a deal allowing U.S. and other foreign troops to withdraw in exchange for Taliban security guarantees, said a Taliban official, who declined to be identified.
U.S. and Taliban said last month they were close to reaching a deal, despite concern among some U.S. security officials and within the Afghan government that a U.S. withdrawal could plunge the country into even more conflict and open the way for resurgence of militant factions.
President Donald Trump halted the talks with the Taliban last month, following the death of a U.S. soldier and 11 other people in a Taliban bomb attack in Kabul.
The Taliban also planned to follow up on Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent comments ahead of a meeting in New York with Trump, that he would try to convince the president to re-enter talks, the Taliban official said.
The Taliban delegation is also expected to meet PM Khan in Islamabad. Taliban officials have in recent days also visited Russia, China and Iran. …Agencies

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