ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office said on Thursday that efforts to arrange direct talks between the Afghan government and Taliban were continuing despite insurgents’ refusal to participate in the dialogue.

“Efforts by Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) countries are continuing for facilitating talks between the Afghan government and Taliban. … This facilitation is a shared responsibility of all QCG countries,” FO spokesman Nafees Zakaria said at the weekly media briefing.

Officials from countries participating in QCG — Pakistan, Afghanistan, US and China — had at their last meeting held in Kabul on Feb 23 hoped that direct talks between Kabul and Taliban would begin by the first week of March. The proposed timeline could not be met because Taliban rejected the invitation for talks and reiterated their demands for withdrawal of foreign troops, removal of curbs on their leaders and release of Taliban prisoners.

Stressing Pakistan’s support for reconciliation process, Mr Zakaria said: “Pakistan believes in Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process and sincerely wishes to extend all support to assist Afghan government and its people to that end. Pakistan’s whole-hearted participation in the QCG, Heart of Asia and other processes is a clear manifestation of our keen desire to see peace in Afghanistan.

“We will continue to play a positive role with regard to efforts for peace and stability in Afghanistan,” he added.

MODI: The spokesman did not rule out the chances of a meeting between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on the sidelines of Nuclear Security Summit in Washington.

“I would like to add here that as of now there is no firm proposal for a bilateral meeting of the two prime ministers in Washington DC, though usually such meetings do take place on the sidelines of summits,” he said.

He, however, said there was no link between Adviser Sartaj Aziz’s meeting with Indian External Affairs Minister Sus­h­ma Swaraj Singh in Nepal with the possibility of prime ministers meeting in Washington.

CHINESE TROOPS: The spokesman rejected reports in Indian media about presence of Chinese troops in Azad Kashmir as untrue. “We totally reject baseless rumour-mongering about the presence of PLA (Peo­ples Liberation Army, China) troops in AJK,” Mr Zakaria said.

He was responding to recent reports in Indian media, which claimed that Chinese soldiers had been seen at forward positions along the Line of Control in Azad Kashmir.

These allegations from India are not new and are repeated from time to time. Mr Zakaria recalled that Chinese foreign ministry had also refuted these reports.

Published in Dawn, March 18th, 2016

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