Four-nation group terms talks 'only option' for durable Afghan peace

May 18, 2016

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Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry (centre L) chairs the fifth round of four-way peace talks with Afghanistan, US and Chinese delegates at the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad.─APP
Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry (centre L) chairs the fifth round of four-way peace talks with Afghanistan, US and Chinese delegates at the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad.─APP

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry on Wednesday hosted the fifth meeting of Quadrilateral Coordination Committee (QCC) aimed at reviving long-stalled direct peace talks between the Afghan government and Taliban.

According to a joint declaration issued by foreign office, the group comprising representatives from Afghanistan, Pakistan, United States and China agreed that peace negotiations are the only option for a political settlement in the war-ravaged country and all the members will use their influence in this regard.

The group members also expressed their resolve to advance the goal of an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process. However, the participants could not decide the schedule for next meeting.

Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry represented Pakistan, while other delegations were led by Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan Dr. Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal, the Special Representative of the United States for Afghanistan and Pakistan Ambassador Richard G. Olson, and China’s Special Envoy for Afghan Affairs Ambassador Deng Xijun.

The joint declaration condemned the April 19 terrorist attack in Kabul. The statement underscored that those who perpetrate such acts of terror should remain ready to face the consequences of their actions.

Related: 30 dead, hundreds wounded as Taliban attack rattles Kabul

During the last meeting, Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz had proposed four points to help guide the reconciliation process:

  • Creating conditions to incentivise the Taliban to move away from using violence to pursue political goals and come to the negotiating table
  • Sequencing actions and measures appropriately to pave the way for direct talks with the Taliban
  • Using confidence-building measures to encourage Taliban groups to join the negotiating table
  • A realistic and flexible roadmap which broadly defines steps and phases ─ but avoids unrealistic targets and deadlines ─ is important for charting the course of action.

Related: Four nations call on Taliban to join Afghan peace talks

The four-nation group was formed in January to try to restart the direct peace talks. But the lack of a breakthrough has left many frustrated as the Taliban have intensified their insurgency, launched in late 2001 after they were toppled from power by a US-led invasion.

On Wednesday a senior Afghan official sounded an optimistic note.

“We are hopeful this time after we had complaints regarding Pakistan, over not bringing the Taliban to the negotiation table. There is pressure on Pakistan by the US and China, the important participants of the talks,” Mawlawi Shahzada Shahid, a spokesman for a group called the High Peace Council, told AFP in Kabul.

He added that a visit in April to Pakistan by a senior Taliban delegation from their political office in Qatar had further raised hopes.

“Pakistan had somehow convinced them to come back to the talks, and I believe there will be progress and development this time around,” Shahid said.