ISLAMABAD- Peace negotiators representing the Pakistani government and Taliban insurgents called on Thursday for higher-level talks between the two sides following a breakfast meeting hosted by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Dialogue aimed at ending the Islamists’ seven-year insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives resumed on Wednesday following a two-week suspension after militants killed 23 kidnapped soldiers.
The military retaliated with a series of air strikes that it said killed more than 100 militants, and the Taliban last weekend announced a month-long ceasefire.
But negotiations have so far been conducted through teams of go-betweens, which some observers say has hampered their effectiveness.
“We have asked the prime minister to replace this committee with an effective forum,” said government chief negotiator Irfan Siddiqui after Thursday’s meeting.
“We believe that in the next phase, sensitive issues and demands will come up and we need to have a mechanism for direct contacts.”
Rahimullah Yusufzai, another government negotiator, told AFP: “We have proposed that those who have authority to make decisions should be part of this committee. There should be representatives from the government and the military in the committee.”
On the Taliban side, chief negotiator Maulana Sami-ul-Haq said his team was “satisfied with the round of talks this morning with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif”.
“It was decided in the meeting that now the time has come to strengthen the committees and empower them more,” he added.
Haq said his team might have to return to the Taliban’s base in the tribal areas of northwest Pakistan in a day or two to report back to their leadership.