British ambassador to Afghanistan Sir Nicholas Kay said on Sunday the British government supports all efforts to get the Taliban to the negotiation tables.
Speaking to members of the People’s Peace Movement in Kabul, who are holding a sit-in protest close to the British embassy, Kay said anyone trying to get the Taliban to the talks table with the Afghan government is doing a good job.
The movement called on the British government to put pressure on Pakistan to stop its interference in the internal affairs of Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah has confirmed that talks have been held between the US and the Taliban. He said these talks were aimed at paving the way for peace negotiations with the Taliban.
“I believe these efforts are positive. We had this in the past and they will be in the future as well. But to determine the future, is the authority of the people of Afghanistan,” said Abdullah.
Members of the People’s Peace Movement started their sit-in protest in front of the UK embassy in Kabul three days ago after having spent a day outside the Iranian embassy.
Addressing the activists on Sunday afternoon, Kay said the only solution to the current crisis in Afghanistan is diplomacy.
He pledged to do whatever he can towards ending the war in Afghanistan.
“The United Kingdom supports all efforts to bring about an inter-Afghan settlement to this conflict. So I think anybody who is prepared to talk about peace and talk to the Taliban, with the Taliban to bring them to the table with the Afghan government is doing a good job,” said Kay.
The peace activists meanwhile said that London can play a key role in convincing Pakistan to bring the Taliban to the talks table.
When asked about when the war in Afghanistan would end, Kay said: “I don’t have the answer.”
Officials from Afghanistan’s High Peace Council (HPC) meanwhile said that peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban could start sometime this year.
“This does not mean that the Afghan peace process will be carried out or the peace talks started. The peace process comes in the next phase,” said HPC spokesman Sayed Ehsan Tahiri.
In addition, a former Taliban commander Sayed Akbar Agha has also said that Taliban’s political committee under the leadership of the group’s commander Sher Mohammad Abbas is leading the talks in Qatar.
“The Taliban have handed over their authorities to the Qatar political committee, there are eleven or twelve members in the committee,” said Agha.
This comes a few days after the US’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells met with Taliban officials this week to discuss ways to lay the groundwork for peace talks, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.
The report said the aim of the discussion was to build on momentum created by the recent three-day ceasefire over Eid al-Fitr.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Wells led the US delegation, which met with members of the Taliban’s political commission in Doha, Qatar last week.
The Taliban’s political office declined to comment, according to the Wall Street Journal report, which also stated that Wells did not respond to an emailed request for comment.
“The United States is exploring all avenues to advance a peace process in close consultation with the Afghan government,” a State Department official said.
The State Department declined to comment specifically on the question of talks with the Taliban, but said Wells returned to the US on Tuesday after discussing progress toward an Afghan-led process with Qatari officials.
The United States earlier in the week commended Qatar for its ongoing support for peace in Afghanistan and said Wells had met with the Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Defense Affairs Khalid bin Mohamed Al Attiyah.
According to Qatar’s The Peninsula daily last week, the two officials discussed recent progress toward an Afghan-owned, and Afghan-led peace process, and pledged to continue both countries’ efforts toward combating terrorism and promoting regional peace and stability.
Wells welcomed the Qatari government’s support for the ceasefire last month in Afghanistan, and highlighted the deep appreciation of the United States for the Qatari government’s constructive partnership and dedication to Afghanistan, read the report.
After Well’s trip to Qatar, the US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert, tweeted “appreciation for Qatar's constructive partnership, dedication and ongoing support for peace in Afghanistan”
Addressing a press briefing later that day, Nauert confirmed that Wells attended meetings in Qatar and met with Al Attiyah, along with other high-ranking officials.
Nauert said: “I can tell you that our senior bureau official for SCA, Alice Wells, is returning today from Doha, Qatar, and that's where she's been meeting with the - she met with the deputy prime minister. She also met with other government officials to talk about their contributions to the situation in Afghanistan.
“Qatar has been an important and valuable partner in that. They have helped with training and equipping, they have helped with supplies, things of that nature that are obviously needed by coalition partners to help facilitate what is going on right there.
“So Alice is returning. She's had good meetings. And part of the reason she went there was to commend the government for their ongoing support for peace in Afghanistan,” said Nauert.
Referring to the recent successful ceasefire over Eid al-Fitr, Nauert said: “I know some folks in the media and around the world have pooh-poohed that ceasefire that lasted a few days, but our view on this, if you can get a ceasefire that lasts a few days, perhaps you could get another one that lasts a little bit longer, and that gives the people of Afghanistan hope.”
The US officials made it clear that the Afghan government was fully involved in the effort to jump-start peace talks.
The US and Afghan officials warn that official negotiations, if they happen, could be months away, and that those efforts, like previous attempts, could collapse, according to the Wall Street Journal.