Afghan Taliban delegation meets Qureshi at foreign ministry

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The high-level Afghan Taliban delegation currently in Islamabad to meet the Pakistani leadership were received by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Thursday morning, according to a press release issued by the Foreign Office (FO).

During their meeting with the foreign minister, the delegates discussed the regional situation, the Afghan peace process and other issues of mutual interest.

Inter-Services Intelligence Director General Lt Gen Faiz Hameed, Foreign Affairs Secretary Sohail Mahmood and other FO officials were present for the meeting.

The FO bad revealed a deal earlier that an Afghan Taliban delegation was to visit Islamabad to review progress under the stalled US-Taliban peace talks.

Both countries are equally facing the consequences of instability in Afghanistan over the past 40 years,” Qureshi was reported as telling the delegation. He also said that Pakistan understands that war is not the solution to any problem.

Qureshi said that in order to establish peace in Afghanistan, negotiations were the only possible and “positive” option.

The foreign minister said that Pakistan has played the mediator’s role in the Afghan peace progress and emphasised that a peaceful Afghanistan was necessary for peace and stability in the entire region.

He expressed hope that all parties would resume dialogue and that durable peace and stability can be achieved without further setbacks.

Qureshi noted that the Afghan Taliban had praised Pakistan’s role in the peace process and the attendees were unanimous in agreeing to quickly restore talks.

He said Pakistan would continue to play a mediatory role with sincerity.

Taliban delegation’s visit

“Pakistan has extended an invitation to the Taliban Political Commission (TPC) in Doha for a visit,” the FO had said in a statement a day earlier.

Shortly before the announcement, Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen had said Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a co-founder of the Taliban and head of their political office in Qatar, would lead the delegation during talks on important issues with Pakistani officials in Islamabad.

News of the visit came amidst reports that the special US envoy for the Afghan peace process, Zalmay Khalilzad, was also in Pakistan.

Shaheen, the Taliban’s Doha-based spokesman, told AFP that simultaneous visits to Pakistan of US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and the Taliban were a “coincidence”.

But when asked whether there was any possibility of the insurgents meeting with Khalilzad, he replied: “Why not? It depends on the Americans.”

On Tuesday, Khalilzad had arrived in Islamabad for discussions with Pakistani civil and military leadership on reviving peace talks with the Afghan Taliban.

A US official, who spoke to AP on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media, said Khalilzad was not in Islamabad to resume the peace process.

Rather, the US peace envoy will follow up on discussions he held with Pakistani leaders, including Prime Minister Imran Khan, during the UN General Assembly session in New York.

It wasn’t immediately known if Khalilzad will meet with Taliban leader Baradar. The two men held several one-on-one meetings during the many rounds of negotiations held in Qatar, where the Taliban maintain a political office.

Taliban officials have in recent days also visited Russia, China and Iran.