Safe passage for Afghan Taliban considered
ISLAMABAD (PAN): Senior Pakistani, Afghan and US diplomats, opening talks in Islamabad to review peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan, on Friday said they would explore ways to arrange safe passage for Afghan Taliban militants willing to arrive at the negotiating table.
Special US Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Marc Grossman and Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister, Javed Lodin, led their delegations in the talks, a follow up on last month's meeting in Dushanbe. The Pakistani side is headed by the Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani, a Foreign Ministry statement in Islamabad said.
“We need to be able to find them, those who are willing to talk wherever they are,” Lodin told a joint press conference with Grossman and Jilani after the talks.
The officials said they would form a group of experts to consider the proposal of giving safe passage and an environment where the rebels felt themselves safe and confident they could engage in peace talks without any consequence.
The two-day meeting, an initiative to revive stalled peace talks with the Afghan Taliban and to smooth relations between Washington and Islamabad, would review various issues of common interest including the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process, economic development, narcotics, return of Afghan refugees and regional connectivity.
Grossman who led the US delegation was the highest-level American official to visit Pakistan since a Nov 26 cross-border attack by NATO forces left 24 Pakistani soldiers dead and the US-Pakistan relationship in tatters.
“We really welcome this … initiative of the safe passage, which will mean our experts can meet and take this process further,” Lodin said.
Jilani said the formation of the group exploring safe passage was a tangible accomplishment. “An important aspect of this group will be an establishment of the subgroup on the safe passage,” Jilani said.
The Afghan official also called the return of Afghan refugees living in Pakistan in the interest of the two neighbours. He thanked the government and people of Pakistan for their hospitality and respect to the Afghan refugees.
The proposed multi-billion pipeline project taking natural gas from Turkmenistan to Pakistan and then India through Afghanistan also came under discussion at the trilateral meeting.
Jilani said Pakistan’s policy toward bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan was clear, saying Islamabad was supportive of the peace talks led by Afghans and was ready for all kind of cooperation in this regard.
Calling terrorism and extremism as common threats facing the two nations, he stressed the need for increased security measures along the joint borders.
Grossman said confidence between the three countries regarding peace in Afghanistan had revived to a great extent. He said the US wanted a stable and prosperous Afghanistan. He said neighbouring countries, especially Pakistan, could play a major role in bringing peace to Afghanistan, hoping Islamabad would act to honour its promises made with President Karzai during his visit to Pakistan two months ago.
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