Islamabad Talks Vital Step Towards Achieving Peace: Delegation

The Afghan peace delegation which recently returned from what they called a productive discussion with Taliban and Haqqani members in Islamabad, capital of Pakistan, told media on Tuesday they gained significant achievements.

Appearing in a press conference in Kabul, the Afghan government’s peace envoys acknowledged they for the first time met with the Taliban representatives in a formal meeting.

“The government’s six-member delegation for the first time had a direct meeting with the Taliban representatives in Pakistan,” High Peace Council (HPC) member Haji Din Mohammad said, who was part of the team representing Afghan government. “We appreciate every effort that takes us close to peace.”

Kabul’s delegation to the talks, included Hekmat Khalil Karzai, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) political deputy; Haji Di Mohammad HPC member; Farhadullah another HPC member; Faizullah Zaki, the head of the First Vice President’s Office; Asadullah Sadati, representing the Second Vice President’s Office; Eng. Muhammad Asem, representative to the Chief Executive; and Mohammad Natiqi, representing the Second Deputy Chief Executive, were all present at the meeting.

Mullah Yahya, a member of Haqqani network, Latif Mansoor from Taliban’s Quetta Shura and Abbas Akhund, representing Taliban’s Qatar group, were the key negotiators for the Taliban, an Afghan delegation member told TOLOnews on condition of anonymity.

“It was a long-time objective for the Afghan government to talk to Taliban face to face,” Din Mohammad told the journalists.

He noted the first round of the two-day meeting paved grounds to discuss key issues including the ceasefire mechanism in the next meeting which he said would be held after the fasting month of Ramazan.

However he stated these talks were not meant the end of Taliban fighting.

In addition, Karzai maintained that the Taliban representatives raised issues pertaining to withdrawal of foreign troops, release of Taliban prisoners and UN sanctions on the group.

“There were no pre-conditions for the talks,” Karzai told reporters. “Everything and anything could be discussed.”

When asked about the difference between Islamabad and other recent meetings, Faizullah Zaki said: “The Taliban had always denied talking to the Afghan government and rejected meetings with Afghan officials, but this time it was different.”

Mohammad Natiqi, another delegation member that got chance to brief journalists said the Islamabad meeting took four hours and necessary confidence was built.

“What made this meeting with the Taliban special was that senior leaders of the Taliban and Haqqani network attended the meeting,” Natiqi noted.

Turning down fears about losing past gains in the peace talks with the Taliban, Zaki said: “Limited constitution amendments are considered in the talks with the Taliban, and the red line at the meeting was the amendment in first and second chapter of Afghanistan constitution.”

Furthermore, the Afghan delegation members highlighted the importance of presence of Haqqani network members in the meeting as the group has long been accused of carrying out attacks in Afghanistan.

“It was important to talk to Haqqani Network because they have actively been engaged in fighting our government too,” Din Mohammad said.

As the venue for the next meeting was unclear, Zaki told reporters that China could possibly be the next host of the talks.

The delegation said representatives from the United States, China and Pakistan were the observers at the meeting who it said welcomed the meeting.

Meanwhile, President Ashraf Ghani left Kabul early Thursday for a two-day official visit to Russia accompanied by a high-level government delegation, said a statement from his office.

President Ghani is scheduled to attend a Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Ufa city, Russia, due on Thursday and Friday.

On the sidelines of the meeting, President Ghani is expected to meet with the leaders of participating countries, especially Russia and Pakistan, the statement added.

According to the Pakistani officials, President Ghani and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will also discuss on Islamabad peace talks.

Muhammad Asem, a member of Afghan peace delegation, said at the press conference that President Ghani would update regional leaders about the talks with the Taliban in SCO meeting.

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