Third round of Afghanistan peace talks begin

Four countries meet in Pakistan for third round of talks to end nearly 15 years of war in Afghanistan

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

Delegates from Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and United States attend the third round of talks at the Pakistani Foreign Ministry in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016.

Representatives from China, the United States, Afghanistan and Pakistan started third round of talks on Saturday in Pakistan's capital Islamabad to constitute a roadmap for peace between the Taliban and Afghan government.

Pakistan’s special adviser on foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz said that there should be no preconditions on the negotiations, but the Taliban has said they first want to have talks with US officials before holding talks with Afghan government.

Aziz said that this time he wants to see the roadmap for peace to be finalised by the end of the third round of talks, Kabul also expressed its eagerness for a result.

"We are confident that the process would lead to a significant reduction in violence (in Afghanistan)," Aziz said.

"We have to exert all our efforts and energies for keeping the process on track."

On the other hand deputy spokesman for Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah said they are “desperate of waiting to see the immediate effects and results” of quadrilateral meetings and the progress that they made in the two previous meetings.

A diplomat attending the peace talks said one of the biggest bumps on the road to peace is identifying those Taliban who aren't interested in peace or whom the Afghan government considers "irreconcilable" - their crimes too offensive to be part of a peace process. Another challenge is coming up with a set of confidence-building measures that will be good enough to lure Taliban to the table. The diplomat asked that neither his name nor nationality be used because he was not authorised to talk to the media.

Peace efforts broke down in 2015 when the Taliban announced their founder and leader Mullah Mohammad Omar had died two years ago.

Aziz said the new talks should clearly show each phase of what is certain to be a multi-phase process.

"We believe our collective efforts at this stage ... have to be aimed at the persuading maximum number of Taliban groups to join the peace talks," said Aziz. "This will contribute to imparting a momentum to the process offering the incentive of political mainstreaming to the insurgent groups, and gradually shrink the space for the irreconcilables."

In January the Taliban demanded the removal of the group from a UN blacklist, formal recognition of a political office and release of political prisoners as a pre-condition for joining talks.

Nevertheless, the Afghan government has said it expects at least parts of the Taliban to agree to peace talks within six months, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah told Reuters in New Delhi last week.

"There might be groups among the Taliban who might be willing to talk and give up violence," Abdullah said, declining to give further details.

Meanwhile Afghan government  and the US accuse Pakistan’s intelligence agency (Inter Services Intelligence or ISI) of providing backdoor assistance to Afghanistan's Taliban.

Washington has said the ISI supports the Haqqani network, which is recognised as a terrorist group.

The ISI has denied the allegations.

TRTWorld and agencies