ISLAMABAD - In a major diplomatic success for Pakistan, the Afghan government and the Taliban have agreed for peace talks, officials said on Tuesday.

The development came after this week’s “productive meetings” between  Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and the Afghan leadership including President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul.

Senior officials’ at the foreign ministry told The Nation that Pakistan had convinced both the sides to hold talks for the sake of peace in the country and the region.

“It’s a huge success for Pakistan. We don’t know when the talks will be formally held but they have taken a step forward. They (the Afghan government and the Taliban) have agreed for peace talks. They will discuss terms and conditions in the coming days,” said one official.

Another official said Pakistan deserved a credit for ‘concrete steps’ for the peace process in Afghanistan. “It’s good that Afghanistan is also acknowledging our efforts,” he remarked.

After the meeting with Afghan leaders on December 24, Foreign Minister Qureshi had said he had “productive meetings” over the peace process with the Taliban.

“I’ve had productive meetings with the Afghan leadership this morning,” Qureshi wrote on Twitter. “The peace process is making positive headway.”

Qureshi met Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani and President Ashraf Ghani in the first stop of his three-day tour of four countries which also included Iran, China, and Russia. He had completed talks with the Chinese counterpart yesterday and will fly to Russia for more talks in Moscow.

Salahuddin Rabbani said on Twitter that he discussed “issues of great importance” with Qureshi.

Earlier, the Taliban had refused to enter into dialogue with the Afghan government’s representatives. However, ‘acknowledging’ Pakistan’s diplomatic move, they have ‘conditionally’ agreed to negotiate with the government.

The Taliban have asked for establishment of caretaker government and the formulation of a committee, in which representatives from their side would put forward their perspective of the setup. Besides, they have asked for an immediate release of some of their prominent leaders. The dialogue process is expected to progress after a response from the Afghan government.

Yesterday, Pakistan and China reiterated their support to Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process in Afghanistan.

During a meeting between Foreign Minister Qureshi and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Beijing, the two sides had an in-depth exchange of views on the entire spectrum of bilateral relations and regional matters including the situation in Afghanistan.

“While discussing the evolving political dynamics in Afghanistan, the two sides underscored commonality of views on the matter,” said a foreign ministry statement.

Qureshi appreciated China’s important role in furtherance of peace and development in Afghanistan, particularly through China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Trilateral mechanism.

Expressing satisfaction at the strong bilateral partnership, Qureshi highlighted that China Pakistan Economic Corridor had added an important dimension to bilateral ties of the two countries.

He noted the important progress made on CPEC during the 8th meeting of Joint Coordination Committee held in Beijing last week.

Qureshi underscored that the ‘All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership’ between Pakistan and China is deeply rooted in mutual trust and respect.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi appreciated Pakistan’s efforts for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. He said that China attached paramount importance to its relations with Pakistan and underlined that time-tested partnership between two countries is based on mutual respect, trust and strong bonds of friendship.

Both the leaders agreed that the ‘highly successful’ visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan set the tone for further expanding the time-tested friendship between Pakistan and China.

They noted with satisfaction the bilateral cooperation at multilateral fora and emphasized the need to further deepen communication and coordination at all levels.

Last week, Pakistan had arranged a meeting between the Afghan Taliban and the United States with an aim to ensure peace in the war-torn country. Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other stakeholders were in touch during the meeting.

The FM recently participated in the China-led tripartite dialogue in Kabul which was attended by Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. The meeting aimed to advance the ongoing peace talks in Afghanistan to catalyze an end to the 17-year invasion of the country by US troops.

In November Russia had hosted talks on peace and Afghanistan Taliban which among Afghan leaders were also participated China, Iran and Pakistan. There were no significant breakthroughs during the Moscow meeting, which was attended by representatives of 11 countries. But delegates widely acknowledged that the meeting itself was a feat.

This month, US President Donald Trump wrote a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan seeking Islamabad’s support in securing a “negotiated settlement” to the war in Afghanistan.

This came as Washington stepped up efforts to hold peace talks with the Taliban, more than 17 years after the invasion of Afghanistan. In his letter, Trump said a settlement is “his most important regional priority”, the Pakistani foreign ministry stated. “In this regard, he has sought Pakistan’s support and facilitation”, it added.

Prime Minister Imran Khan and Foreign Minister Qureshi welcomed US President Donald Trump’s letter seeking Pakistan’s cooperation for reconciliation process in Afghanistan.

Yesterday, Pakistan strongly condemned the shooting and suicide attack at a government building in Kabul that resulted in loss of over 40 lives and injuries to many others.

“We express our deepest sympathies and condolences to the bereaved families and pray for the recovery of the injured. Pakistan stands together with the government and people of Afghanistan in this hour of grief. We also reiterate our solidarity with Afghanistan in their fight against the common enemy of terrorism,” said a foreign ministry statement.


Afghan govt , Taliban agree to hold talks