A Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Thursday that talks on how to restart a tentative peace dialogue with Afghanistan’s Taliban insurgents would be held in Islamabad next month, contradicting an Afghan statement that they would be in Kabul.
“Consultations are underway to host the first meeting of the Quadrilateral Co-ordination Committee in Islamabad in the second half of January. Exact date is being worked out in consultation with Afghanistan, China and the US. The level, composition, and agenda of the meeting is being worked out through consultations in the quadrilateral framework,” Foreign Office spokesman Qazi Khalilullah told a weekly briefing in Islamabad.
Officials say the meeting, involving officials from Afghanistan, the United States, China and Pakistan, and had been decided on this month when Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Islamabad during a conference.
This comes after the Afghan Foreign Ministry on Tuesday announced that Kabul will host a key meeting on peace talks between Afghanistan, Pakistan, United States and China next week.
Foreign Ministry Deputy Spokesperson Khairullah Azad said the decision to hold the meeting was taken during the recent visit of Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif to Kabul.
“It was decided that a meeting among Afghan, Pakistani, American and Chinese officials should be held in the first few days of January in order to map out the way forward for the peace talks [between the Afghan government and the Taliban],” he told TOLOnews.
About goals of the meeting, he said: “The talks will involve those militants that are interested in peace talks; while other [militant] groups will be fought jointly.”
A member of the High Peace Council (HPC), Haji Din Mohammad, who attended the first round of the peace talks, said the meeting will determine the mechanisms of the talks.
“The mechanisms of the peace talks will be fixed in the meeting and it will be decided what steps should be taken,” he said.
“The meeting will talk about ways of building trust between the Afghan government and Afghan Taliban – also [trust] between Pakistan’s government and Pakistani Taliban.”
This comes after a close source to President Ashraf Ghani told TOLOnews that the president drew three redlines regarding peace talks with the Taliban during his meeting on Sunday with Sharif.
In this meeting, Ghani reportedly laid down the law and said discussions need to be clear on three points – the protection of democratic institutions; Pakistan needs to give its honest cooperation regarding peace and that the Taliban should join the talks from the position of a group and not as a parallel government or Islamic Emirate, the source said Monday.
Referring to this, Din Mohammad said: “Afghan government cannot wait for an agreement among Taliban’s different groups in order to come to Afghanistan and talk about peace. Reports reveal that rifts among Taliban have increased, therefore the president said that Kabul is ready to talk with those who are ready for peace.”
The reason for the contradictory statements was not immediately clear and Afghan officials could not be reached. Neither side has said Taliban representatives would attend.
Asked if the Taliban had been approached for the talks, Khalilullah said the quadrilateral meeting was “restricted to the quadrilateral framework”.
“This [quadrilateral] meeting that is going to take place next month is between Pakistan, Afghanistan, United States and China. So this is restricted to the quadrilateral framework,” he said.
Diplomats have been working to revive the nascent peace process, which broke down in July following an initial round, after which news was leaked of the death of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar more than two years earlier. -Tolonews
THE PASHTUN TIMES