Pakistan opposes preconditions for Afghan reconciliation

Islamabad, Feb 11 (IANS) A senior Pakistani diplomat on Wednesday emphasised a “step-by-step approach” and opposition to any precondition for the peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

The comments came days after the four-nation meeting in Islamabad decided to set date for the Afghan peace talks by the end of February.

The Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) of Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and the US will meet in Kabul on February 23 to review progress in contacts with the Taliban groups to encourage them to join the peace talks.

Officials say all member countries will use their “channels” to approach the Taliban Qatar office and other groups to invite them to the talks.

“We must, sequence the process and take a step-by-step approach rather than coming up with preconditions by either side in an extremely complex and difficult process,” said Pakistan Foreign Secretary, Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, who represents the country in the QCG.

Speaking at a meeting of the Afghan members of the civil society, currently visiting Pakistan as part of the Beyond Boundaries – Pakistan-Afghan Track II/1.5 initiative in Islamabad, he hoped that concerted efforts by the QCG would result in direct intra-Afghan talks sooner than later.

The dialogue has been undertaken by an Islamabad-based Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS).

Chaudhry underscored that the positive message by all stakeholders was essential to help improve perceptions, adding the speed with which the QCG has moved reflects the commitment of all stakeholders to the Afghan peace and reconciliation, a CRSS statement said.

“This will also help the respective governments to move in tandem in the reconciliation process and neutralise the impact of spoilers,” he said, expressing the hope that the Afghan civil society and the media would play their role in making the peace efforts successful.

Pointing to the aggravated security situation, factional divisions and emergence of Islamic State, Chaudhry said these factors posed a big challenge to the QCG process but hoped that given the resolve of all four countries, they were not insurmountable.

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