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Senior Taliban Delegation In Talks With Officials In Pakistan


Taliban chief negotiator Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (left) will lead the delegation in Islamabad.

A senior Taliban delegation has met with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in Islamabad in an effort to revive Afghan peace negotiations that have included trips to Russia, China, and Iran.

The delegation headed by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a co-founder of the Afghan militant group and head of their political office in Qatar, met with Qureshi on October 3.

Last month, U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from a lengthy negotiation process whose main component was ending the nearly 18-year war in Afghanistan.

Pakistan has urged both sides to resume talks.

Qureshi told the Taliban delegation that "Pakistan would continue to support all efforts to achieve permanent peace in Afghanistan which was essential for Pakistan's own socioeconomic development and progress," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement after the talks.

Qureshi "noted that the direct Taliban-U.S. talks since last year, strongly and sincerely supported by Pakistan, had now laid a firm ground for achieving a sustainable peace deal in Afghanistan," the statement said.

Taliban spokesman Sohail Shaheen, who is based in Qatar, told RFE/RL that the group was ready for a resumption of talks with Washington.

The Taliban representatives arrived in Islamabad as the U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, is also there for "consultations" with Pakistan.

It was not known if the Taliban delegation and Khalilzad would meet.

Earlier, Shaheen told AFP that the overlapping visits to Pakistan were a "coincidence," but he left open the possibility of a meeting with Khalilzad.

"Why not? It depends on the Americans," Shaheen said.

Baradar said the delegation will discuss "important issues" with Pakistani officials.

It was reported that the delegation will inform the Pakistani leadership of the factors that led to peace talks collapsing with the United States.

One of its main negotiation points between the Americans and the Taliban was a gradual withdrawal of foreign troops in exchange for Taliban security guarantees, including not having the country become a haven for terrorist elements.

The Taliban said it planned to inquire about Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan's comments that he would try to get Trump to reenter talks with the insurgent group.

The visit comes days after Khan's address at the UN General Assembly session and his meeting with Trump.

Despite its talks with U.S. officials, the Taliban so far has refused to negotiate with the government in Kabul, calling it a puppet of the West.

Sediq Sediqqi, a spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, tweeted on October 2 that the government should be involved in any peace process.

"No progress will be imminent if a peace process is not owned and led by the Afghan government," he said.

Taliban fighters have continued to launch attacks against Afghan security forces, with the latest such attack taking place on October 2 in and around Taluqan, the capital of the northern province of Takhar.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, dpa, and AFP
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