Political reconciliation only viable option for durable Afghan peace: Sartaj

ISLAMABAD: Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz Saturday said that political reconciliation was the only viable option for promoting durable peace in Afghanistan,reiterating Pakistan’s stance that peaceful Afghanistan was vital for regional peace and stability.

“We firmly believe that a politically negotiated settlement through an all inclusive intra-Afghan reconciliation process will contribute towards accomplishing our shared goal of lasting peace in Afghanistan,” he said addressing the third session of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group of Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United States and China to strategize Afghan peace process.

The delegations were led by Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai, Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Ambassador Richard G. Olson and China’s Special Envoy for Afghanistan Ambassador Deng Xijun.

He reaffirmed that for Pakistan, peace in Afghanistan was very important for regional peace and stability for what the former had been engaged in serious and consistent efforts to facilitate an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led reconciliation process.

He appreciated the Afghan government’s commitment and efforts for durable peace in Afghanistan, besides lauding the constructive role of the United States and China for facilitating the peace process.

He said the Quadrilateral process was the manifestation of shared commitment to undertake joint efforts for realizing the  goal of reducing violence and achieving long-term peace and stability in Afghanistan, and the region.

He observed that the Group had made steady progress in its first two meetings, held in Islamabad and Kabul respectively, demonstrating clarity as well as seriousness of purpose.

He said calling on Taliban groups by QCG for talks with Afghan government without precondition was the reiteration of a strong message by the international community for peace talks to find a basis for enduring political settlement in Afghanistan.

“I am hopeful that continuing with this spirit and resolve, the Group will now focus on the early adoption of a roadmap for the reconciliation process and identify the way forward for holding direct peace talks between the representatives of the Government of Afghanistan and Taliban groups as early as possible,” he remarked.

Sartaj Aziz also emphasized that Pakistan fully shared Afghanistan’s concern that increasing violence was a key challenge, and its reduction should be an important objective of peace talks.

He said people of Afghanistan did suffer from an unending cycle of violence for decades and QCG’s efforts towards advancing political reconciliation in Afghanistan were of crucial importance.

“We are confident that the process would lead to a significant reduction of violence,” the Adviser hoped.

He viewed that a clear, well-defined and actionable roadmap for peace process between the Afghan Government and Taliban groups was important. It should identify and stipulate various stages of the process while measuring the progress, being made at each stage, he added.

He said the roadmap should also serve to convey positive signals about unflinching commitment of the parties to the peace process.

Sartaj Aziz emphasized the Group to focus on proper sequencing of the measures in the peace process, timely joint decisions and actions on key issues, and effective coordination among the QCG countries, as the reconciliation process moved forward and delivered the desired outcome.

Regarding the peace process, he said, QCG’s collective efforts  at this stage, including thorough supportive CBMs, have to be aimed at persuading maximum number of Taliban groups to join the peace talks.

“This will contribute to imparting a momentum to the process, offering incentive of political mainstreaming to the insurgent groups, and gradually shrink the space for the irreconcilables.”

Sartaj Aziz said the quadrilateral framework was based on mutual consensus that political reconciliation is the most viable option for promoting long-term peace and stability in Afghanistan, therefore, all-out efforts and energies must be utilized on keeping the process on track.