Can Pakistan get the Taliban to the negotiating table with the Afghan Government who have been strongly backed by India and the US? Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi assured high-level delegates from Kabul that bloodshed in the country will end and peace talks with Taliban will start.
The assurance came amid reports that the Afghan Taliban cancelled planned talks with US officials in Qatar, scheduled for this week, over Washington’s insistence for the participation of Afghan government.
Pakistan and other stakeholders have been making efforts in recent weeks to persuade the Taliban leadership to include Afghan government officials in the ongoing peace talks. The insurgents have also called off the follow-up of Abu Dhabi talks to be hosted by Saudi Arabia.
He is touring Islamabad with the hope that Pakistan will use influence to convince the Taliban for holding talks with the Afghan Government. The Taliban have repeatedly rejected such offers, insisting that they would not talk to the “puppet government” in Kabul.
Officials familiar with the closed-door meeting confirmed that bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table with the Afghan government was the main talking point. Qureshi, according to the officials, briefed President Ghani’s senior aide about the talks in Abu Dhabi and also the future course of action. The talks in Abu Dhabi were brokered by Pakistan and also attended by US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and representatives from Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
For the first time, the Taliban have the representation of their military and political wings at the talks, raising hopes of a possible peace deal. But the insurgents’ refusal not to engage with the Afghan government appears to be a major stumbling block in the way of any forward movement.
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