Concluding their first round of dialogue near Islamabad on Wednesday, Afghan government and Taliban representatives agreed to meet again after the holy month of Ramadan at a mutually convenient date.
The talks, the first confirmed contact, were hosted by Pakistan between the two sides in Murree, a tourist resort near the nation’s capital “as part of the commitment to facilitate an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process, the Pakistani Embassy in Kabul said.
It said the meeting was also attended by representatives from China and the USA as observers. The participants were duly mandated by their respective leadership and expressed their collective desire to bring peace to Afghanistan and the region,.
They exchanged views on ways to bring peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan and agreed that for lasting peace in the region, each side would approach the process with sincerity and commitment.
The participants recognised the need to develop confidence building measures to engender trust among all stakeholders.
They agreed to continue talks to create an environment conducive for peace and reconciliation process, the statement said. The next meeting will be held at mutually convenient date after Ramazan.
“The government of Pakistan expresses its profound gratitude to the government of Afghanistan and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Afghanistan for their willingness to work towards bringing lasting peace in Afghanistan.”
“We also thank other partners in peace, including the United Nations, for their contribution to the stability and development of Afghanistan,” the statement concluded.
On Tuesday President Ashraf Ghani confirmed a delegation from the High Peace Council had traveled to Pakistan for negotiations with the Taliban.
His deputy spokesman Sayed Zafar Hashemi confirmed the announcement and said the delegation was led by Deputy Foreign Minister Hikmat Khalil Karzai.
The Murree negotiations follow several informal meetings between the Taliban and Afghan officials outside Afghanistan in the recent months.
The informal meetings took place in Norway, Qatar and Dubai and the Taliban delegates had reported pledged support for women's education and their right to work in “male-dominated professions”.
The Murree meeting comes at a time when the Taliban's annual spring offensive is in full swing, with two bomb attacks rocking Kabul on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the US welcomed the talks. “This is an important step toward advancing prospects for credible peace,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
The meeting could be a step towards starting a formal peace process with the insurgent group, which was ousted from power by a US-led invasion in 2001.