4 nations call on Taliban to join peace talks with Afghan gov’t


By Lynne O’donnell, AP

KABUL, Afghanistan–Representatives from four countries gathered in Kabul on Monday called on the Taliban to resume peace talks with the Afghan government.

Senior officials from Afghanistan, Pakistan, mainland China and the United States met for most of the day at the Presidential Palace amid tight security, a week after a first round of discussions in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.

In a joint statement released by the Afghan Foreign Ministry, they said the talks “made progress on a roadmap toward initiating peace talks with Taliban groups. It said they hope to bring the two sides together for talks “aimed at reduction of violence and establishing lasting peace in Afghanistan and the region.”

The four-nation group “called on all Taliban groups to enter into early talks with the Afghan government,” and agreed to meet again in Islamabad on Feb. 6. The insurgents are not represented at the talks.

An official close to the process said that another two “preparatory” meetings are expected to take place.

“There are different opinions about the methodologies and approaches in resuming these talks,” the official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to journalists.

The roadmap would include “who do they want to talk to, on what timetable, what incentives are to be offered, and what kind of action will be taken with those people who want to talk and those who do not want to talk,” the official said.

The meetings are part of a three-step process, said Abdul Hakim Mujahid of Kabul’s High Peace Council, tasked with ending the war. Mujahid also served in the Taliban’s 1996-2001 administration.

“The first step is to formulate a roadmap, the second is to invite the armed opposition to the negotiating table and the last step is the implementation of the peace plan,” Mujahid told The Associated Press.