Head of Afghan peace council due in Pakistan next week

Head of Afghan peace council due in Pakistan next week

PESHAWAR: The head of the Afghanistan High Peace Council, Mohammad Umar Daudzai, will arrive in Pakistan next week to meet senior Pakistani officials and push forward peace talks with the Taliban, his spokesperson said on Wednesday. 
Afghanistan and the United States have long pushed Pakistan to use its influence with the Taliban to bring them to the table for talks to end a 17-year-long war. 
Sayed Ihsan Taheri, the spokesman for the council, told Arab News Daudzai would be in Pakistan “next week to hold talks with Pakistani officials on regional issues,” but declined to specify an exact date. 
Taheri said Daudzai would exchange views with Pakistani officials regarding developments in Taliban peace talks and his government’s position on the latest efforts to bring the militants to the negotiating table. 
“Pakistan can prove significant in promoting peace parlays,” Taheri said.
Zardasht Shams, the deputy head of mission at the Afghan embassy in Islamabad, told Arab News he had no details yet of Daudzai’s visit: “Details will be clear later. Date of [the visit] is not fixed.”
Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs could not be reached for comment despite repeated calls and text messages. 
Daudzai’s visit comes amid an intensification of moves toward peace negotiations in Afghanistan. 
Last month, representatives from the Taliban, the US and regional countries met for talks in the United Arab Emirates. So far, the Taliban have refused to hold formal talks with the Afghan government, which they consider an illegitimate foreign-appointed regime. The groups says it will first reach an agreement with the United States, which it sees as the main force in Afghanistan since US-led forces toppled the Taliban government in 2001.
The United States, on the other hand, insists any final settlement must be led by the Afghans.
Representatives of the Taliban from the group’s Qatar office have attended peace talks in China, Germany, France, Qatar and other countries recently. Last Sunday, Iran confirmed a Taliban delegation visited Tehran to advance peace talks in the neighboring country. 
Hikmat Safi, an adviser to Afghan Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah, said Daudzai’s planned visit to Islamabad was of paramount importance because Afghan peace talks had recently gained considerable momentum. He said Afghans expected a “cease-fire” in the country after the meeting between the Taliban and the United States in Saudi Arabia next month. 
Last week, the Taliban rejected Kabul’s offer of talks in Saudi Arabia.
The Pakistan army has thrown its support behind the latest US efforts for a political settlement and urged Washington to leave Kabul as a friend of the region rather than a “failure”.
“As much as we can, we will facilitate,” army spokesman Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor told reporters last month while replying to a query about what Pakistan could do to help the United States negotiate a political settlement with the Taliban.

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