Senior Taliban leaders in talks with officials in Pakistan
ISLAMABAD: Senior Taliban leaders met Thursday with Pakistan’s foreign minister in Islamabad as part of a push to revive an Afghanistan peace deal discussed in months of US-Taliban talks before those negotiations collapsed.
The visit by the Afghan Taliban leaders coincided with that of Washington’s special peace envoy for Afghanistan, who was also in Islamabad on Thursday for “consultations” with Pakistani officials.
Before coming to Pakistan, the Taliban delegation travelled to Russia, China and Iran, officials and a Taliban spokesman said.
The 12-member team is headed by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a co-founder of the Taliban and head of their political office in Qatar. They met with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, the country’s intelligence chief Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed, foreign secretary Sohail Mahmood and other officials.
According to Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen, the delegation arrived in Islamabad late Wednesday.
US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad had spent the last year negotiating a peace deal with the Taliban, which seemed imminent until September 7, when the talks collapsed amid a surge in deadly Taliban attacks across Afghanistan _ including one that killed a US soldier _ and President Donald Trump declared the talks “dead.”
Since then, Pakistan has urged both sides to resume talks to end fighting in Afghanistan.
According to state-run Pakistan Television, Qureshi warmly welcomed the Taliban delegation on its arrival at the ministry. The TV quoted Qureshi as saying that Islamabad wanted to see a resumption of the stalled talks between Washington and the Taliban for peace in neighbouring Afghanistan.
It also quoted Qureshi as saying that Pakistan will continue to sincerely play its mediatory role in the peace process. The Taliban leaders are expected to stay in Islamabad for at least four days.
Pakistan’s foreign ministry in a statement Wednesday said the Taliban delegation was invited by Islamabad and that “the visit would provide the opportunity to review the progress made under US-Taliban peace talks so far, and discuss the possibilities of resuming the paused political” process for Afghanistan.