ISLAMABAD, Sept 5: Pakistan, Afghanistan and the US started talks on Wednesday on modalities of providing safe passage to the Taliban willing to join reconciliation talks.
At the inaugural session the three sides reiterated their commitment to peace and vowed to remain engaged on the issue of safe passage.
“Delegations from Kabul, Washington and Islamabad participated in today’s meeting and agreed to continue further discussions aimed at promoting peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan,” a Foreign Office statement said after the meeting without giving details of any progress made at the meeting.
A western source said the talks on Wednesday focused on determining which of the Taliban might need safe passage and how could their travel through Pakistan be facilitated.
A Pakistani participant described the talks as cordial and positive.
The decision to set up a group on safe passage for the Taliban for peace talks was one of the two initiatives on which Pakistan, Afghanistan and the US had agreed at the their trilateral meeting in Islamabad in April.
The other was to set up another group in New York to work on delisting reconcilable Taliban from the UN sanctions list.
Officials from Pakistan and US had welcomed the agreement on the setting up of a sub-group on safe passage as an important achievement of the trilateral process.
The safe passage offer was meant to guarantee safe travel to Taliban leaders and officials in reaching out to the Afghan government or to travel abroad for talks.
Pakistan is accused of playing host to a number of Taliban leaders, including the group’s Chief Mullah Omar. Hence its cooperation for providing a safe passage to Taliban is considered crucial. Arrest in Pakistan of some Taliban leaders who were believed to have been preparing to join peace talks was said to have caused a major setback to the process.
Taliban had in April spurned trilateral group’s safe passage offer to so-called reconcilable leaders and dismissed the move as an American attempt to divide their ranks.