Pakistan opposes preconditions for Afghan peace talks

Islamabad, Jan 11 (IANS) A top Pakistani prime ministerial aide on Monday asserted that no precondition should be attached for peace talks with the Taliban.

“It is important that no preconditions are attached to the reconciliation process, as it will create difficulties in bringing Taliban to the negotiating table,” said Sartaj Aziz, foreign affairs advisor to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Aziz was addressing the opening session of a quadrilateral meeting here attended by officials from Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and the US to finalise a roadmap for resurrecting the stalled peace process in Afghanistan.

Announced in December the talks in Islamabad come as the Taliban’s insurgency intensifies, testing the capacity of Afghanistan’s overstretched military and placing pressure on Pakistan to rein in its one-time proxies.

“The primary objective of the reconciliation process is to create conditions to bring the Taliban groups to the negotiation table and offer them incentives that can persuade them to move away from using violence,” said Aziz.

Inaugurating the first meeting of the Quadrilateral Coordination Committee on Afghan peace process, where attendees included Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Khalil Hekmat Karzai and the special representatives of the US and China for Afghanistan, Aziz said Pakistan gives importance to its neighbours and wants peace in Afghanistan.

“The primary objective of the reconciliation process is to create conditions to bring Taliban to the negotiating table and offer them incentives that can persuade them to move away from using violence as a tool for pursuing political goals,” he said.

“It is, therefore, important that no preconditions are attached to the reconciliation process,” Aziz added.

The prime minister’s senior aide added: “Certain confidence building measures can play a key role in encouraging Taliban to join the negotiating process.”

Pakistan had brokered a rare face-to-face meeting between Afghan officials and Taliban representatives in July last year. The initiative, officially called Murree Peace Process, however, fell apart after news emerged that Taliban’s long-time leader Mullah Omar had died two years ago.

However, after China and the US encouraged both Islamabad and Kabul, the two sides agreed to pursue the reconciliation process. Army chief General Raheel Sharif then travelled to Kabul as part of efforts to expedite the peace process.

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