ISLAMABAD: Pakistan, US and Afghanistan agreed on Thursday to provide ‘safe passage’ to Taliban militants willing to join reconciliation talks and set up a working group to settle modalities for their unhindered movement.
This was announced by Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani at a press conference addressed by heads of delegations at the 6th core group meeting of the three countries.
The move, which comes in conjunction with the three sides agreeing to coordinate their activities at the UN for removing Taliban leaders from the Security Council sanctions list, is the biggest step forward for promoting reconciliation in Afghanistan since the core group was established a year ago for the sole purpose of advancing the peace process.
The announcement came weeks ahead of a Nato summit in Chicago, which would review the military effort in Afghanistan and take stock of the progress towards reconciliation.
The two steps are being seen as a confidence-building move to put the reconciliation process, which suffered a setback last month with Taliban pulling out of the Qatar process, back on track.
“All sides have agreed in principle that it would be their collective responsibility to facilitate anyone travelling to take part in peace talks,” a Pakistani diplomat explained while talking to Dawn and said modalities would now be worked out by a group of experts.
Secretary Jilani said Pakistan would be happy to facilitate the process that would bring about peace and stability in Afghanistan.
In February, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had appealed to all Afghan warring factions to join an intra-Afghan dialogue for ending conflict in their country.
Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Jawed Luden welcomed the decision on safe passage and coordination of efforts for the delisting of Taliban leaders.
“I very much second the two initiatives. … This will help the reconciliation process,” he said.
US Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman said: “Our shared goals are to open doors for Afghanistan to sit down with other Afghans to talk about the future of their country.”
Ambassador Grossman, notwithstanding the confidence-building measures, reiterated the conditions for joining the dialogue.