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Iran Press TV

Taliban delegation visiting Pakistan for talks with top officials

Iran Press TV

Thursday, 17 December 2020 7:32 AM

Members of Taliban's Qatar-based political bureau have met with Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi to discuss recent developments in Afghanistan's ongoing peace process.

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban's co-founder who spent eight years in Pakistani custody, led a delegation that arrived in the capital, Islamabad, on a three-day visit on Wednesday morning.

The Taliban delegation is set to meet Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan during the visit as well.

In a statement released by Pakistan's Foreign Ministry, Qureshi reaffirmed his country's support for a "peaceful, stable, united, sovereign and prosperous Afghanistan," stressing that Islamabad would continue to "facilitate" the peace effort.

Qureshi further expressed hope that Afghan parties would seize on this "historic" opportunity to establish lasting peace in Afghanistan. He also warned against the role of "spoilers" who he said seek to disrupt the peace process.

The visiting Taliban members thanked Pakistan's "facilitative role" in the peace process.

This is the second Taliban delegation to visit Pakistan in the last four months. The Taliban last visited Islamabad in August, just before peace talks with the Afghan government began in the Qatari capital, Doha.

The latest development comes as both sides in the Afghan peace process continue to consult with their leaderships and other key players during a break in negotiations.

After reaching a preliminary agreement this month, negotiators representing the Afghan government and the Taliban militant group are taking a break until January 5.

The preliminary deal sets out procedural ground rules for further talks revolving around settling disputes.

The deal was the first written agreement between the two warring sides since the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

Representatives from the Afghan government and the Taliban held the first round of intra-Afghan negotiations in the Qatari capital on September 12. The talks had been set to take place in March, but were repeatedly delayed over a prisoner exchange agreement made as part of a deal between the Taliban and the United States.

Under that deal, the Taliban agreed to halt their attacks on international forces in return for the US military's phased withdrawal from Afghanistan and the prisoner exchange with Kabul.

Afghan government's reaction to Taliban's visit

Meanwhile, Afghanistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it was aware of the Taliban delegation visiting Islamabad and added that Kabul respected Pakistan's efforts for peace in the war-torn country.

"The Taliban delegation's visit to Islamabad is following consultation with the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and as a result of the trip to Afghanistan by the Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan," the ministry said in a statement.

Separately on Wednesday, Afghanistan's chief peace negotiator Abdullah Abdullah said disagreements on where the talks should take place would not be allowed to undermine the process.

Abdullah said it would be better to hold the talks in Afghanistan but would "depend on the agreement of both sides."

His remarks came after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani threw his weight behind calls to move the peace talks from Qatar, saying the next round of negotiations between the Taliban and the government should be held at home.

"The Taliban claim to be in Afghanistan, so do they not negotiate inside Afghanistan?" Ghani's spokesman, Sediq Sediqqi, quoted the Afghan president as saying in a cabinet meeting on Sunday.

Members of Afghanistan's national security council had earlier reportedly called for the talks to be moved to the country.

Later on Wednesday, Pakistan's premier made a phone call to Ghani to discuss the progress in the peace process, as well as ways to strengthen relations between the two neighbors.

During the telephone conversation, Khan said the Taliban visit was part of Islamabad's "outreach to all Afghan stakeholders" to ensure progress for peace in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan has been gripped by insecurity since the US and its allies invaded the country as part of Washington's so-called war on terror in 2001. Many parts of the country remain plagued by militancy despite the presence of foreign troops.

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