Pakistan, Afghanistan and the U.S. on Friday decided to explore ways to arrange safe passage for those members of the Taliban who wish to participate in the reconciliation process. Simultaneously, the permanent missions of the three countries at the United Nations will work together on the issue of delisting Taliban leaders and others from time to time to facilitate the peace process.
The three countries agreed to work toward these two goals at the two-day core group meeting which ended here on Friday. Two sub-groups have been set up for the purpose. Addressing the media after the meeting, Afghanistan's Deputy Foreign Minister Javed Ludin said it was important for Taliban members who were in contact one way or the other with the interlocutors in the reconciliation process to feel they could engage openly without any consequences for them.
Extent of contact
He said this in reply to a direct question on the level and extent of contacts that all three countries have had with the Taliban. Further, according to the Afghan Minister, there is a need to reach out to those with whom no contact has been established till date and “we count on the commitment that has been expressed here today”.
Earlier, Pakistan's Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani had reiterated Islamabad's commitment to facilitating in “whatever possible manner we can” the “inner process” that would bring peace and stability in Afghanistan. He had in his opening remarks described peace and stability as a “core national objective” for Pakistan.
For his part, Special U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman did not specify the level and extent of contact that Washington has had with the Taliban but maintained that the purpose of all American contact with the Taliban is to facilitate the conversation among Afghans about the future of their country.
Set up exactly a year ago, this was the sixth meeting of the core group and the engagement comes after the frost that had set on U.S.-Pakistan relations in November-end following the attack on a Pakistan Army outpost by NATO forces. The effort of the core group is to kick-start the stallesd peace talks with the Afghan Taliban to put in place a governance structure acceptable to all ahead of the scheduled withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan in 2014.