KABUL: Negotiators from the Afghan government and Taliban teams met on Friday to discuss speeding up stalled peace talks, officials from both sides said, as a deadly mosque blast shattered the calm of a holiday ceasefire in Afghanistan.
In a telephone conversation with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on Saturday, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi highlighted Pakistan’s efforts to end the conflict in the neighbouring country and said the warring sides there should seize on the opportunities available to them to forge tranquility and peace in their country.
Despite unprecedented talks opening in September in Doha, the two warring sides have struggled to make headway, with violence escalating in Afghanistan as the United States pulls out the last of its troops.
FM underlines need for Afghan sides to secure negotiated settlement
“Today a meeting was held in Doha between the delegations of both negotiating sides,” the Afghan government’s peace team tweeted.
The parties “emphasised speeding up the peace talks in Doha”, it added.
In a similar statement posted to Twitter, the Taliban said “both sides agreed to continue the talks after (Eidul Fitr)”, which ends on Saturday.
A three-day ceasefire agreed by the warring sides came into force on Thursday to mark the holiday, after weeks of deadly violence.
But the calm was broken by a blast at a mosque on the outskirts of the Afghan capital, which killed 12 people including the imam leading Friday prayers.
No group has so far claimed the attack and the Taliban denied responsibility.
A spokesman for the interior ministry said the explosives were placed in the mosque ahead of the prayers.
Afghans have been cautiously enjoying the rare respite from violence, only the fourth such truce in the two decades-long conflict.
Ceasefires in the past have largely held, in what is widely thought to be an exercise by the Taliban leadership to prove it has control over the myriad factions across the country that make up the hardline movement.
While talking to Mr Wang, Mr Qureshi emphasised that Pakistan supported an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan.
Underscoring the importance of a responsible withdrawal of foreign forces from the country, reduction in violence, and earliest possible ceasefire, the foreign minister stressed the need for the Afghan parties to seize the opportunity to work together and secure a negotiated and inclusive political solution.
Mr Qureshi maintained that China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Trilateral Foreign Ministers Dialogue was playing an important role in promoting peace and stability.
Published in Dawn, May 16th, 2021