July 5, 2018
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan has urged the Taliban to accept the Afghan government’s unconditional offer of peace talks and rejected once again U.S. demands to single-handedly bring the insurgents’ leaders to the negotiating table.
At a weekly news conference Thursday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Faisal reiterated Pakistan’s “full support” for efforts by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to promote a peace dialogue with the Taliban to end decades of hostilities in Afghanistan.
“There is no military solution to the decades-long conflict in Afghanistan. We hope that the Taliban would grab the opportunity of unconditional peace talks,” Faisal said.
The spokesman vehemently dismissed U.S. assertions that Islamabad is responsible for single-handedly trying to bring the Taliban to the table.
“Absolutely not. We have repeatedly stated that all stakeholders in Afghanistan will have to share this responsibility and Pakistan is ready to play its role in it,” Faisal noted.
Faisal made his remarks just two days after a senior U.S. diplomat for the region, Alice Wells, visited the two countries and reiterated the U.S. call for Pakistan to take “sustained and decisive action” to bring the Taliban to peace talks.
Wells also noted insurgent leaders “who aren’t residing in Afghanistan” are obstructing efforts to find a negotiated political settlement to the war.
The American diplomat was apparently referring to long-running Afghan and U.S. allegations that Taliban leaders are sheltering in Pakistan and directing the insurgency from sanctuaries there with the help of the neighboring country’s spy agency.
Islamabad denies the accusations, although it promises to use “whatever leverage” it has to persuade the Taliban to enter peace talks.
The Taliban refuse to engage in a peace process with what it dismisses as the “puppet” government in Kabul and demands withdrawal of all U.S.-led forces before participating in any intra-Afghan discussions. The Islamist insurgency is seeking direct talks with Washington, saying the U.S. is its main adversary in the war.
A senior Taliban official has rejected assertions Pakistan can influence and force the insurgency to reviews its policy of not holding talks with Kabul.
“Pakistan has no influence whatsoever. Afghanistan is an issue for Afghans and, therefore, U.S. pressure on Pakistan is misplaced,” the insurgent official told VOA on condition of anonymity.
Pakistani officials also insist that lately Russia and Iran have both increased overt contacts with the Taliban while Islamabad’s influence has receded.