The four nations meeting in Pakistan to discuss the revival of the Afghan peace process on Monday called for immediate talks between the Kabul administration and Taliban insurgents in order to end “senseless” violence.
Representatives from Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and the United States participated in the quadrilateral coordination committee meeting to discuss how to stabilize the war-hit country.
The first of its kind gathering ended with a call for dialogue and a resolve to continue the quest to seek peace, said a joint declaration issued by the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad.
“The participants emphasized the immediate need for direct talks between representatives of the government of Afghanistan and from Taliban groups in a peace process,” the declaration said.
The group will hold another meeting on January 18 in Kabul to build on its deliberations, the declaration added.
Pakistan said unconditional talks should be on offer to all groups linked to the Afghan Taliban.
“The primary objective of the reconciliation process is to create conditions to bring the Taliban groups to the negotiation table,” Pakistani foreign affairs adviser Sartaj Aziz said.
But the absence of the Taliban at the talks - along with an unusual winter offensive the group has been mounting against Afghan forces this year - are seen as worrying signs by some.
“It is, therefore, important that preconditions are not attached to the start of the negotiation process. This, in our view, will be counterproductive,” the adviser added.
Analyst Masood Khan said participants at the road map meeting should respect each other's sensitivities.
“All the players should take care so that the process moves ahead,” said Khan, who leads the think tank Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad.
Experts said the added presence of China and the US was likely to make the process more effective.
In the past there have been doubts about Pakistan's sincerity in bringing the Taliban to negotiations, since Islamabad wields influence over the militia.
Experts now believe that a long-term Chinese investment in Pakistan has made the country a more reliable player in achieving regional peace.
Andrew Small, author of the non-fiction book The China-Pakistan Axis, said Beijing has maintained direct contact with the Taliban since the Taliban's ouster from power in 2001.
"A recent coordination between China and the US may be helpful for the process," he said.
Representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban met near Islamabad for the first time for an ice-breaking meeting last year, but the talks collapsed before the second round.
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