Pakistan welcomes fresh talks with Afghan Taliban: Foreign Office

The Foreign Office welcomed a new round of talks between the Afghan Taliban and other international stakeholders expected to be held in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

“Along with with international community and other stakeholders, Pakistan is committed to peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan,” said FO Spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal on Twitter. “Talks are being held in UAE. We hope this will end bloodshed in Afghanistan and bring peace to the region.”

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid offered no further details. Khalil Minawi, director of Afghanistan’s state-run Bakhtar news agency, also confirmed the meeting. He said on Twitter that officials from the United States, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the UAE held meetings ahead of “the Pakistani-sponsored US-Taliban meeting”.

The US State Department has neither denied nor confirmed earlier meetings, but US special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad previously said he has met with all Afghans involved in the 17-year war.

Khalilzad has already held two rounds of talks with the Taliban in Doha. The US media described these talks as “preliminary discussions”, adding that Washington hopes these contacts would pave the way for more substantial talks on a roadmap for peace in Afghanistan.

Earlier this month, US President Donald Trump wrote to Prime Minister Khan, seeking his help to bring the Taliban to the table for negotiations. A day later, Khalilzad visited Islamabad where he met the prime minister and Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, to follow-up on President Trump’s request.

The prime minister told reporters in Peshawar on Friday that the US had changed its tune by requesting help instead of saying Islamabad was not doing enough, as US officials have previously insisted.

On Saturday, China also pledged to help Afghanistan and Pakistan overcome longstanding suspicions, as officials from the three nations met in Kabul to explore possibilities for engaging the Taliban.

The Chinese government’s top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi, met the foreign ministers of Afghanistan and Pakistan in Kabul on Saturday to prepare a memorandum of understanding on how to support Afghanistan’s efforts to open talks with the Taliban.

“China approves of this, and is willing to provide support and help for Pakistan and Afghanistan to improve their ties,” Wang told reporters after the meeting.