Talks on Afghan peace likely this month

Source: Published in Foreign Affairs on Friday, April 8, 2016

ISLAMABAD: Representatives of Pakistan, Afghanistan, the United States and China are expected to convene later this month to re-examine the blueprint for starting Afghan reconciliation dialogue after their initial plan for talks failed last month because of the Taliban’s refusal to join the process.

A meeting of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) is expected to meet later this month, Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said at a panel discussion organised by the Jinnah Institute and titled “From Winter to Spring: Revisiting the Afghan Question”.

The group that comprises senior officials of the four countries had said at their last meeting in Kabul in February that direct talks between the Afghan government and militants would be held in the first week of March in Pakistan.

Sartaj Aziz cautions against attaching deadlines or conditions to process

But the talks could not be held as planned after Taliban refused to attend the meeting in Pakistan and renewed their conditions for their participation in any peace negotiations.

The QCG had earlier adopted a roadmap stipulating the stages and steps in the process from which flowed the schedule for the possible start of the dialogue process between representatives of the Afghan government and Taliban.

Mr Aziz said that Pakistan would continue to play a positive role for peace in Afghanistan. But he made it clear that Pakistan could not dictate to Taliban.

He cautioned against attaching “timelines and deadlines or conditions” to the process.

Referring to criticism in Afghanistan about Pakistan’s efforts for starting peace talks, he said it was important to keep the process on track and foil the attempts to derail it.

He said a breakthrough would eventually be achieved if the process continued.

Mr Aziz said that the quadrilateral group could at some later date decide on ways to deal with groups that would not join talks.

Afghan Ambassador Dr Omar Zakhilwal identified mutual trust deficit as the biggest problem in the relationship. He said it was more because of misperceptions than contentious issues.

President of the Jinnah Institute Sherry Rehman said that a negotiated settlement of the Afghan dispute was not only in the interest of Afghanistan but also those of the regional players.

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