KABUL, Feb. 24 (Xinhua) — The fourth round of the key Quadrilateral meeting on the Afghan peace process and drafting of a roadmap to find a political solution to the lingering security crisis was held in Kabul on Tuesday.
The meeting has fostered hope among war-weary Afghans that lasting peace in their war-torn country may finally be a viable possibility.
A statement released here at the end of the one-day Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) meeting of the four-nation talks, invited Taliban and other armed groups to join the peace process through their authorized representatives, in the first round of direct peace talks with the Afghan government expected to take place by the first week of March.
The third round of the four-nation meeting was held in Islamabad on Feb. 6 and called on the Taliban to join the peace process and the fourth round of the talks, with the participation of diplomats from Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States beginning in Kabul Tuesday.
According to Afghan political observers, the latter installments of the meetings could significantly bolster the ongoing peace process.
The QCG has welcomed the decision by Afghan and Pakistani governments to continue a bilateral joint working group to liaise with Ulema or religious scholars of both countries to support the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process through Fatwa, or religious decrees, against the ongoing senseless violence in Afghanistan.
Afghan political experts optimistically believe that the talks could facilitate the face-to-face meeting between the Afghan government and the Taliban outfit and eventually lead to sustained peace in the country.
“It is a positive step that the participants of the four-nation talks set a date and a venue for the direct negotiation between the Taliban and the government of Afghanistan,” renowned political and military analyst General (Ret.) Atiqullah Omarkhil told Xinhua on Wednesday.
Nevertheless, the analyst with reference to the fragmentation in the Taliban ranks, observed cautiously, “For the talks to succeed it is crucial that authorized representatives from Taliban attend the peace talks.”
Afghan analysts also believe that denouncing militancy and violence in Afghanistan by Afghan and Pakistani religious scholars would help Afghans to curb insurgency in their conservative society.
Afghan Foreign Minister Salahudin Rabbani in his opening remarks at the four-nation talks here Tuesday morning described the role of Pakistan in the Afghan peace process as “very important” and called upon
Afghanistan’s neighboring states and major powers to support the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace talks.
Afghan political watchers, however, described the quadrilateral talks as promising, saying participation of the two world powers, the U.S. and China, in the four-nation talks demonstrates the international community’s support of the Afghan peace talks and national reconciliation.
“The participation of the U.S. and China in the talks is significant to push for peace in Afghanistan through political dialogue,” Fauzia Kofi, a legislator, told local media.
Kofi also observed that eliminating terror networks such as the Islamic State and the Taliban would benefit the whole region and the world at large including Pakistan and the U.S.
The peace process meeting is taking place amid increasing fragmentation within the Taliban outfit and infighting between the supporters of Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor and his arch rival Mullah Mohammad Rasoul.
In the latest bloody infighting between Taliban fighters, 33, combatants from both sides, according to government officials, have been killed in the Nawa district of the eastern Ghazni province, enabling Rasoul’s supporters to evict Mansoor’s men from the district.
Nevertheless, none of the Taliban groups have expressed their intention to join the peace process, but political analysts are of the views that Afghan government can exploit the rift in Taliban’s ranks in favor of joining the peace talks.
“The four-nation talks are a ray of hope for peace and we should look with optimism toward these most vital peace talks,” Zakir Hussain Ershad, a university professor, was quoted as saying.