Tangible plans for easing Afghanistan's conflict remained elusive Wednesday as a group of four nations meeting on the issue ended their session with only a promise to keep at it.
There had been hope that the representatives of Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and the United States would have come up with a plan to reach out to Taliban insurgents, who continue to engage in regular fighting for control of territory with Afghan forces.
The fifth round of talks came a few weeks after a Taliban bomb killed around 70 people in Kabul. The attack triggered a forceful reaction from Afghan authorities and appeared to diminish chances of reconciliation.
The four-nation initiative was launched last year seeking to find a peaceful settlement to the 15-year-old conflict, but it has made little progress because the Taliban has refused to join.
The situation was further complicated when the insurgents announced their annual spring offensive in April.
“The violence serves no purpose and peace negotiations remain the only option,” a statement from the four countries after Wednesday's meeting read.
The four-nation group condemned the Kabul bombing, underscoring that those who perpetrate such acts of terrorism should be ready to face consequences of their actions.
But events Wednesday offered little hope that the Taliban was close to stopping its offensive. Its forces Wednesday overran a local police base near a key highway, north of Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, putting the insurgent group only 1 kilometre from the highway connecting Kabul to neighbouring countries Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
A spokesman for Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry told dpa ahead of the meeting that hope was slight for a breakthrough, but noted that the process could always be revived.
“We will keep trying,” Nafees Zakaria said. “It seems difficult but doable.”
Representatives from the Afghan government and the Taliban met last year near Islamabad for the first time for a meeting to break the ice, but the talks collapsed before the second round could start.