Pakistan hopes US-Taliban peace talks end war

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan 

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday said his country had helped the U.S. bring Afghan Taliban to the negotiation table.

“Pakistan has helped in the dialogue between Taliban and the U.S. in Abu Dhabi. Let us pray that this leads to peace and ends almost three decades of suffering of the brave Afghan people,” Khan tweeted.

He promised Islamabad will do everything it can to further the peace process.

Afghan Taliban representatives met with U.S. officials on Monday in the UAE to end the 17-year conflict in Afghanistan.

Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, led the U.S. team. Officials from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and UAE also participated in the talks.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Tuesday the group held a round of meetings with senior officials from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and UAE to discuss the withdrawal of the U.S. forces from war-torn Afghanistan.

“Preliminary talks were held with the said countries along with the State Department’s Special Representative Zalmai Khalilzad at the end of the day. And meetings in this negotiations process shall continue today,” he said in a statement released to journalists.

Abdul Salam Rahimi, secretary of the Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, is leading the Kabul government’s delegation also comprising Hamdullah Muhib, the national security adviser.

“The Afghan negotiating team led by chief negotiator arrived in Abu Dhabi to begin proximity dialogue with the Taliban delegation and to prepare for a face-to-face meeting between the two sides,” the presidential palace noted in a statement.

Muhib has shed more optimistic light on the talks in the UAE. “Peace is coming,” he said in a Twitter post.

The Taliban have also confirmed a series of meetings on the second day in the Emirates.

Earlier on Monday, Afghan media reported that Kabul government representatives are also participating in the meeting. However, the Taliban spokesman rejected the reports saying they only spoke to U.S. officials and had no plans to speak to the Kabul government, which they do not recognize.

Syed Ehsan Tahiri, spokesman for Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, told Anadolu Agency the main purpose of this moot is to pave the way for direct talks between Kabul and the Taliban rebels.

“We welcome these engagements in the UAE,” Tahiri said.

U.S. President Donald Trump had asked for Islamabad’s help in brokering the talks earlier this month.

Pakistan had brokered the first round of direct talks between the fragile Afghan government and Taliban in Islamabad in July 2015. However, the process broke down when the Taliban announced the death of their long-time leader Mullah Omer — triggering a bitter power struggle within the militia.

Source: AA