Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan in an address to his country’s parliament on Thursday said the ongoing Qatar talks between the US negotiators and Taliban members have been facilitated by Pakistan and that the there is a chance for peace in Afghanistan for the first time through dialogue.
“There’s an issue of Pakistan-Afghanistan (relations),” he said. “First time through dialogue there's a chance for peace in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We are making every effort. It’s because of these efforts there’s a dialogue in Qatar which is assisted by Pakistan.”
Meanwhile, Pakistan's prime minister pledged his country would release a captured Indian jetfighter pilot the following day, a move that could help defuse the most-serious confrontation in two decades between the nuclear-armed neighbors over the disputed region of Kashmir.
This comes as the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad, who sat with Taliban members for the fifth time in Qatar since last September, said on Thursday that the meetings in the last three days with the group’s members in Doha were “productive”.
When beginning the talks, Khalilzad said that this time he will be talking with a “more authoritative” delegation of the Taliban, pointing at the presence of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, Taliban's deputy leader and head of the group's Qatar office.
“Meetings were productive. We continue to take slow, steady steps toward understanding and eventually #peace,” Khalilzad said in a tweet.
The announcement for a two-day break in US-Taliban talks was made in a statement by the Taliban on Thursday morning.
Khalilzad said, “both sides will take the next two days for internal deliberations, with plans to regroup on Saturday”.
The four main topics of US-Taliban talks in Qatar have been US forces withdrawal from Afghanistan, ensuring that Afghanistan’s territory is not used as a threat to any other country, a comprehensive ceasefire and direct talks with the Afghan government. This was confirmed by the Afghan government as well as by sources ahead of the talks.
Pointing out to the four topics, Khalilzad said that “all four key issues remain on the table”.
In his last visit to Kabul, Khalilzad called on the Afghan government to form a national team to engage in talks with the Taliban.
Mentioning this, Khalilzad said, “as talks continue in Doha, there is also progress on forming a national team in Kabul ready to engage in intra-Afghan dialogue and talks with the Taliban”.