Afghan, Taliban talks expected to restart by end of February

Talks between Afghan officials and Taliban representatives are expected by the end of February, it was announced on Saturday after four-way talks involving Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and the United States.

The Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) of four nations set up in December to facilitate the peace process in Afghanistan met in Islamabad.

"The QCG countries agreed to continue joint efforts for setting a date for direct peace talks between the representatives of the Afghan government and Taliban groups expected to take place by the end of February," according to a statement by the group.

The groups also called on all Taliban groups to join the peace talks, stressing that the "outcome of the reconciliation process should be a political settlement that results in the cessation of violence, and durable peace in Afghanistan."

The meeting also adopted a "roadmap stipulating the stages and steps in the process," but it did not elaborate on the roadmap.

Earlier, Pakistani foreign affairs advisor Sartaj Aziz said in opening remarks that the meeting would "focus on the early adoption of a roadmap for the reconciliation process."

He had called for a "clear, well-defined and actionable roadmap for the peace process," identifying and stipulating various stages of the process "while measuring the progress being made at each stage."

Aziz said the prospects would hinge on whether they could bring the majority of Taliban groups into a peace process.

He also reaffirmed Pakistan's support for peace in Afghanistan.

The QCG had already met twice in Islamabad and Kabul.

Pakistan Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai, US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Ambassador Richard G Olson and China's Special Envoy for Afghanistan Ambassador Deng Xijun attended the third meeting in Islamabad.

The groups also agreed to hold their next meeting in Kabul on February 23.

Preliminary peace talks between the insurgents and Afghan officials started in July, with a first round in Pakistan. But the process was put on hold after the announcement that month that the Taliban founder Mullah Omar had died.

Last update: Sat, 06/02/2016 - 17:45

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