Afghan talks begin amid dim hopes

WEB DESK: The four-nation Quadrilateral Co-ordination Group (QCG) Wednesday warned terrorists in Afghanistan to “be ready to face consequences of their actions”, as Kabul declared that with lack of progress it will be difficult to maintain public and political support for unconditional peace negotiations.

Hosted by Foreign Secretary of Pakistan Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry, the fifth meeting of the QCG of Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United States and China on the Afghan peace and reconciliation process was held here. Afghan President’s Special Envoy and Ambassador of Afghanistan to Pakistan Dr Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal, US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Olson and China’s Special Envoy for Afghan Affairs Ambassador Deng Xijun represented their respective countries.

“The QCG reiterated that violence serves no purpose and that peace negotiations remain the only option for a political settlement. In this respect, QCG countries reaffirmed to use their respective leverages and influences,” said a joint press statement issued after the meeting. “The QCG strongly condemned the April 19 terrorist attack in Kabul and underscored that those who perpetrate such acts of terrorism should be ready to face consequences of their actions,” it added.

The QCG expressed its continued determination with a shared commitment to advance the goal of an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process, the statement said, adding the next QCG meeting will be convened as mutually agreed. Earlier, in his opening statement, Afghan Ambassador referred to the continued violence in Afghanistan but added that the meeting was important in the sense that it is being held after a significant pause, in the midst of which a number of events that affect the nature of our discussion as well as the role of the QCG. “Our view is that the QCG has been and could continue to be a useful forum for discussing some of our toughest issues, particularly relating to the prospects of peace, reduction of violence, combating terrorism and trying to build trust,” the Afghan envoy said.

Though no statement of other representatives was available and the Foreign Office had to withdraw the same joint press statement which was earlier released before the agreed time of 7:00 PM on Wednesday evening, the Afghan ambassador statement was released to the media by the Afghan Embassy here. Zakhilwal pointed out that the QCG process has had made some achievement like the agreement on the “Roadmap for Peace and Reconciliation Process in Afghanistan”, adding the way it was finalised, was a significant step, which undoubtedly generated a lot of hope and optimism.

However, real progress at the end is measured and viewed by the change in the ground reality with respect to peace or conflict. “The ground reality in my country is indicative of Taliban opting for continued and more violence,” he added. “You would agree that the paper work of the QCG, as significant as it has been, has not yet been matched by the deliveries expected. Peace talks did not begin as we announced; Violence in my country did not recede”, he added. The “spring offensive” by the Taliban was launched but, he added, it did not succeed as was highly expected by the Taliban, and in fact they have been receiving mounting casualties but deadly terrorist attacks, of which the April 19 2016 suicide bombing was the most serious one, continue unabated.

“With such lack of progress it is not easy to maintain public and political support for peace negotiations – at least for unconditional ones,” the Afghan envoy said, adding Afghanistan’s expectation from Wednesday’s meeting is to have a frank and hard assessment of progress or the lack of it as well as on the QCG roadmap, and need to discuss and understand the reasons and the challenges.

“We still view the QCG process useful and would want it to continue, but for QCG itself to remain relevant and useful, we must show real progress on our intended aims and deliver on our commitments, as per the QCG roadmap,” he underscored. Earlier, he also thanked the government of Pakistan for hosting the 5th round of the QCG meetings in Islamabad and for its hospitality. The meeting was held amid reports of Afghanistan signing a draft peace agreement with Hezb-e-Islami led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

Source: Business Recorder