Pakistan wooing Afghan Taliban to meet US envoy

Islamabad, Jan 19, IRNA -- Pakistan is encouraging the Afghan Taliban leaders to have a meeting with US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who is currently in Pakistan for an intra-Afghan political settlement, local media reported.

However, the Afghan Taliban have officially announced that they would not hold any meeting with the US Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad in Islamabad.

“We want to make it clear that we will not hold any meeting with Zalmay Khalilzad in Islamabad,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a brief statement released to the media, killing rumours about their meeting with the visiting US delegation.

Senior US officials, including Zalmay Khalilzad, former US ambassador and their representative for Afghanistan, are presently in Pakistan for the past two days and want Pakistan to arrange their meeting with the Afghan Taliban in Islamabad.

Pakistan facilitated Khalilzad’s meeting with the Taliban leaders in the United Arab Emirates last month that was also attended by Saudi, UAE and Pakistani officials.

Taliban say Khalilzad cancelled talks in Qatar last week, which was followed by Taliban threat to halt all negotiations. The peace envoy said in Kabul this week that the US is also ready for war if the Taliban want to choose that path.

Officials say Pakistan is making efforts to break the stalemate and has invited the Taliban to resume their talks in Pakistan, sources familiar with the efforts said.

Pakistan has reportedly invited Taliban to meet the US delegation either on Saturday or Sunday. Pakistani officials had earlier suggested Jan 18 for the meeting, but the Taliban avoided the meeting as they are unhappy over the cancellation of Qatar meeting and Khalilzad’s remarks in Kabul.

Taliban were upset when Khalilzad reportedly told them that the next round will be held in Saudi Arabia and that the Afghan government representatives will also attend. Taliban sources say they do not want the US and others discredit the Qatar office as they consider it as the lone option to pursue political dialogue.
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