ISLAMABAD: The first round of talks brokered by Pakistan between representatives of the Afghan government and the Afghan Taliban concluded Wednesday in Murree, with both parties agreeing to meet again.
"As part of the commitment to facilitate an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process, Pakistan is hosting a meeting today between the representatives of the Afghan government and the Afghan Taliban," FO spokesman Qazi Khalilullah said in a short statement early Wednesday.
"The representatives from United States and China are attending as observers," Qazi said earlier.
During the talks, both sides presented their stances on the prevailing situation in Afghanistan and how progress could be made.
The FO spokesman said the participants exchanged views on ways and means to bring peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.
Both major parties agreed that for lasting peace in the region, each side would approach the process with sincerity and full commitment.
The spokesman said participants recognised the need to undertake confidence building measures in order to engender trust among all stakeholders.
The participants were duly mandated by their respective leadership and expressed their collective desire to bring peace to Afghanistan and the region, and agreed to continue talks to create an environment conducive to the peace and reconciliation process.
The spokesman said the government of Pakistan expressed its profound thanks to the Afghan government and the Taliban for their willingness to work towards bringing lasting peace in Afghanistan.
"We also thank other partners in peace, including the United Nations, for their contribution to peace, stability and the development of Afghanistan," Qazi said.
The next meeting will be held at a mutually convenient date after Ramazan.
Officials on Tuesday said the Afghan delegation had travelled to Islamabad in the latest bid to start peace talks with the Taliban. There was no confirmation earlier, however, that the militants would take part.
“A delegation from the High Peace Council of Afghanistan has traveled to Pakistan for negotiations with the Taliban,” read a statement posted on Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's official Twitter account.
The High Peace Council (HPC) is the body tasked with opening negotiations with the militants.
Sayed Zafar Hashemi, Ghani's deputy spokesman, confirmed the announcement and said the delegation was being led by deputy foreign minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai.
Hashemi gave no details of the expected length of talks, subjects to be discussed or Taliban participation.
In recent months there have been several informal meetings between the Taliban and Afghan officials from varied political backgrounds at venues outside Afghanistan, but little concrete progress appears to have been made.
Official efforts to reopen peace negotiations with the Taliban have so far borne little fruit, but informal talks have taken place in the recent past behind a veil of secrecy.
The Taliban last month admitted taking part in informal talks in Norway with an Afghan delegation, reportedly made up of women.
And at another round of informal meetings in Qatar in May, activists said Taliban delegates, long condemned for their misogynistic ideology and lack of respect for human rights, pledged support for women's education and their right to work in “male-dominated professions”.
The Taliban have laid down hardline preconditions for taking part in full-blown negotiations, stressing the need for the complete departure of foreign troops from Afghan soil.
The Taliban's annual offensive is in full swing, with two bomb attacks in Kabul on Tuesday, even as tentative efforts are being made to negotiate an end to their 13-year insurgency.
Nato ended its combat mission against the militants at the end of December but a smaller force has stayed on for training and counter-terrorism operations.
US welcomes peace talks
The United States welcomes talks between the Afghan government and Taliban, the White House said on Tuesday after Afghanistan announced it had sent a peace delegation to Pakistan for talks.
“This is an important step toward advancing prospects for a credible peace,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
The meeting could be a step towards starting a formal peace process with the insurgent group, which was ousted from power by a US-led invasion in 2001.
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