Top US diplomat arrives in Islamabad for crucial talks over Afghan peace process

Top US diplomat arrives in Islamabad for crucial talks over Afghan peace process

ISLAMABAD: US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad arrived today to discuss the matters related to Afghan peace talks with the Pakistan leadership.

According to sources, Zalmay Khalilzad would hold meetings with the top political and military leaders during his visit and discuss the next phase of the peace process as Afghan rivals hold talks in Qatar in search for a ‘lasting peace’ in the war-torn country.

Khalilzad, who attended inaugural sessions of Doha dialogue, is accompanying a three-member delegation of senior US officials. Kabul mounts pressure on Taliban for truce

The Afghan government ratcheted up pressure for a truce with the Taliban on Monday, reiterating calls for a long-term ceasefire during talks.

The two sides are in the early stages of meetings in an effort to hammer out a deal bringing to a close 19 years of bloodshed in Afghanistan.

A slick opening ceremony on Saturday saw the Afghan government and allies, including the US, call for a ceasefire.

But the Taliban, who fought a years-long guerrilla campaign against American and Afghan forces after they were forced from power in a 2001 US-led invasion, did not mention a truce as they came to the negotiating table.

Afghan presidential spokesman Sediq Seddiqi tweeted Monday that the presence of government negotiators at the talks "is aimed at achieving a ceasefire, ending the violence and ensuring lasting peace and stability in the country."

The head of the peace process for the Afghan government, Abdullah Abdullah, had earlier suggested the Taliban could offer a ceasefire in exchange for the release of more of their jailed fighters.

Schedules and a code of conduct for the talks were discussed in meetings on Sunday, according to both sides, but talks on substantive issues are yet to get underway.

Delegates warned negotiations, which take place even as fighting continues in Afghanistan, would be arduous and messy.

"We will undoubtedly encounter many challenges in the talks over the coming days, weeks and months," US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during a visit to Doha Sunday.

He also urged the warring sides to "seize this opportunity" to secure peace. -APP/AFP