ISLAMABAD : The Afghan government and Taliban began on Saturday historic peace talks aimed at ending two decades of war that has killed tens of thousands of people in Afghanistan. Addressing the opening ceremony of the Intra-Afghan negotiations video link in Doha today, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said: “We meet today to mark a historic occasion when our Afghan brethren take a major step forward in their long quest for peace.” He said Pakistan has walked along-side Afghanistan in every possible way, by encouraging a reduction in violence and by urging dialogue and negotiations. “Pakistan has fully facilitated the process that culminated in the U.S.-Taliban Peace Agreement in Doha on 29 February 2020 and has reached this juncture.”
FM Qureshi said Pakistan and Prime Minister Imran Khan has long maintained that there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan as a political solution is the only way forward. “We are gratified that our perspective is now widely shared across the international community,” he pointed out. “It is now for the Afghan leaders to seize this historic opportunity, work together constructively, and secure an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement. The forthcoming negotiations are for the Afghans to decide about their future. The Afghans alone must be the masters of their destiny, without outside influence or interference. ” Shah Mahmood warned that spoilers, from within and from without, will pose formidable challenges, calling for constants vigilance to guard against their machinations.
He said it is imperative that the mistakes of the past are not repeated and that the Afghan people must not be abandoned, as happened before. Suggesting four-pronged way forward, the Foreign Minister called upon the international community to continue to support the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace well-resourced, time-bound return of Afghan refugees to their homeland with dignity and honour. Earlier, in a statement Prime Minister Imran Khan has reiterated that Pakistan will continue to extend full support and solidarity with Afghan people as they march forward in the journey for peace and development. He warmly welcomed the announcement for start of Intra-Afghan Negotiations today, saying finally our combined efforts have brought forth the day that the Afghan people have been yearning for. The Prime Minister said through relentless efforts, Pakistan has played a pivotal role in facilitating the Afghan peace process to this juncture. He said we feel deeply gratified today as we have fulfilled our part of the responsibility. He said it is now for the Afghan leaders to seize the historic opportunity, work together constructively, and secure an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement. Imran Khan said successful culmination of an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process is indispensable for Afghanistan, and for regional peace, stability and prosperity. He expressed the hope that all sides will honour their respective commitments, persevere in the face of all challenges, and remain unflinchingly committed to achieving the desired outcome.