Direct talks between Kabul and Taliban expected this month: officials

ISLAMABAD: Direct peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban are “expected to take place” by the end of the month, representatives from four countries involved in pre-cursor roadmap negotiations said in a joint statement issued Saturday in Islamabad.

The statement by delegates from Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States came after a third round of talks between the four powers and is the strongest indication yet the Taliban are willing to return to negotiations six months after an earlier round of direct dialogue fell away.

It comes as the insurgents wage an unprecedented winter campaign of violence across Afghanistan, more than 14 years after they were driven out of power by US-led NATO forces.

“The Group stressed that the outcome of the reconciliation process should be a political settlement that results in the cessation of violence, and durable peace in Afghanistan,” the statement said.

“Towards this end, the QCG (Quadrilateral Coordination Group) countries agreed to continue joint efforts for setting a date for direct peace talks between the representatives of the Afghan government and Taliban groups expected to take place by the end of February 2016. “The statement added the group would hold its next meeting in Kabul on February 23.

Pakistan’s role is seen as key in persuading the Taliban to return to talks.

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