Islamabad: Pakistan has invited Taliban and Chinese leaders for talks in Islamabad to smooth the way for intra-Afghan negotiations aimed at bringing an end the 19-year war that’s ravaged Afghanistan.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said talks with a delegation of Taliban leaders would be held on Tuesday, to be followed by a visit by Chinese special envoy for Afghanistan, Liu Jian, to ensure a “coordinated and considered approach” toward peace. The dates for Liu’s visit have yet to be announced.
“We can’t impose our decisions,” Qureshi told a news conference in Islamabad on Monday. “We acknowledge and respect Afghanistan’s sovereignty and we are trying to make progress in these engagements.” Qureshi didn’t give further details of the Taliban’s stay in Pakistan.
The visit follows the U.S.-Taliban peace deal signed on Feb. 29, which included a prisoner swap between Kabul and the Taliban in the lead up to intra-Afghan talks. Since then only partial progress has been made on a key demand by the insurgent group for a prisoner swap — up to 5,000 Taliban fighters for about 1,000 government troops.
On Aug. 9, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said he would free 400 hardened Taliban prisoners “in order to remove the obstacles to the start of peace talks, stop the bloodshed and serve the common good.” Their release has not yet occurred.
A negotiating team led by Taliban deputy chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar will discuss the peace process and a relaxation on the movement of people and refugees during their visit to Pakistan, according to their spokesman Suhail Shaheen. The group will also visit other countries, he said in a Twitter message.- Bloomberg