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Pakistan Urges Afghanistan's Taliban to Join in Peace Talks

FILE - A general view of the Taliban office in Doha, Qatar. Afghan and Taliban officials will hold two days of "reconciliation" talks in Qatar, the Gulf nation's state news agency reported, May 2, 2015.

Pakistan has urged Afghanistan’s Taliban to cease its annual spring offensive and instead engage in peace talks with the Kabul government. The statement to VOA by a top Pakistani official comes as Afghan and Taliban officials together with other stakeholders have gathered in Qatar for an unofficial dialogue.

Representatives of the Taliban-led warring factions, government peace negotiators and Afghan peace activists are among the delegates attending the two-day “open discussions” in Qatar’s capital, Doha.

Officials in Pakistan said they are "anxiously awaiting” the outcome of the talks, and the country is fully supportive of any effort aimed at seeking a peaceful end to the conflict in neighboring Afghanistan.

Pakistan has long been accused of fueling the insurgency in Afghanistan by secretly supporting the Taliban and allowing it to use Pakistani territory for planning and executing its attacks against Afghan government installations and U.S.-led foreign forces.

However, Islamabad has, for the first time last week, denounced the “spike in violence” stemming from the Taliban spring offensive, saying peace and reconciliation is the only solution to end war.

'Best thing that can happen'

On Sunday, Pakistani Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry told VOA that Islamabad welcomes the talks in Qatar, though unofficial, but it wants the Taliban to pursue its objectives through peaceful means.

“Our message is very clear that they (Taliban) have to talk. If they talk and are able to contribute to peace in Afghanistan, that is the best thing that can happen to us and the whole region,” Chaudhry told VOA Sunday when asked for a response to the Doha talks.

He said that Pakistan is determined to improve relations with Afghanistan and is “quietly making dedicated efforts" to push the peace process between Kabul and the Taliban.

Chaudhry refused to discuss further details of what he described as a “highly sensitive” matter, though critics are skeptical about the influence Pakistan has left with the Taliban in the wake of its increasing closeness with President Ashraf Ghani's government.

But Afghan officials said preventing the insurgent group from using Pakistani soil and cutting any kind of support to the Taliban would strengthen Kabul's peace bid.

The “inter-Afghan” dialogue in Qatar is being organized by the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, an international group, in collaboration with the United Nations.

A Taliban spokesman told VOA that the group decided to attend the Qatar discussions after it was agreed they would not be considered peace talks with Kabul.