ABU DHABI: Pakistan on Monday urged the Taliban to remain engaged in the Afghan peace process after the armed group said it would now shun summits about Afghanistan until withdrawal of all foreign forces.
The decision was taken after the United States said last week it would withdraw all troops by Sept 11 this year, later than a May 1 deadline set by the previous administration.
“They take their own decisions, but we will do whatever we can to convince them that it is in their national interest to remain engaged,” Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said of the Taliban in an interview with Reuters in Abu Dhabi.
FM says Taliban have largely succeeded in their objective
The refusal has thrown the peace process into disarray, with Turkey scheduled to host a summit on Saturday that diplomats had hoped could create new momentum towards a political settlement between the Taliban and the Afghan government.
Mr Qureshi said withdrawal delays were always a possibility due to logistics, but that the Taliban had largely succeeded in their objective for foreign troops to withdraw and so should show flexibility towards the new Sept 11 deadline. “The troops will be out and a date has been given and the process starts on May 1 and goes on until the Sept 11. So there is a definite timeframe,” Mr Qureshi said.
Sources have told Reuters Pakistan is putting pressure on the militants to come back to the table.
Mr Qureshi said he believed the Taliban would benefit from staying involved, but added he had no contact with the group.
Pakistan helped facilitate US-Taliban negotiations in Doha that resulted in the initial May 1 withdrawal deal.
Pakistan, which hosts close to three million Afghan refugees and economic migrants, has built 90 per cent of a fence along its 2,500km border with Afghanistan which would be completed by September, he said.
Published in Dawn, April 20th, 2021