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Pakistan, Afghanistan Urge Taliban to Join Peace Talks

Pakistan, Afghanistan Urge Taliban to Join Peace Talks

Tuesday, 26 December, 2017 - 12:00
The foreign ministers of Afghanistan, China and Pakistan attend a joint news conference after the 1st China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Foreign Ministers' Dialogue in Beijing, China, December 26, 2017. (Reuters)

Pakistan and Afghanistan made an appeal on Tuesday to the Taliban militants to join peace efforts in the region.

Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani and Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif made their call following a meeting organized by China to mend strained relations between the two governments.

In a joint statement, the three governments called for a "broad-based and inclusive peace and reconciliation process" following near-daily Taliban attacks in areas across Afghanistan.

The three governments said they "call on the Afghan Taliban to join the peace process at an early date."

Afghanistan and Pakistan are at odds over American and Afghan accusations that Islamabad is harboring some of the fiercest factions of the Taliban, which was overthrown as the Afghan government in 2001 by a US invasion.

"Pakistan and Afghanistan agreed to improve their relations as soon as possible," said the Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi.

"The two sides unanimously expressed the point that they will not allow any party or force to use their territories to engage in the activities that would undermine the security of the other side."

The talks reflected Beijing's efforts to expand its political and diplomatic role in the region.

The Taliban have stepped up attacks across Afghanistan since the United States and its NATO allies concluded their combat mission at the end of 2014. The insurgents have gained ground across several provinces and increasingly launch attacks in urban centers.

On Sunday, a roadside bomb killed seven civilians in Afghanistan's southern Helmand province. No group immediately claimed responsibility, but the Taliban have a strong and growing presence in the area.

Taliban leaders have refused to talk to the Afghan government but have traveled several times to China, held talks with Russia and Iran, and attended conferences in Japan and Europe.

China and Pakistan meanwhile will look at extending their $57 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to Afghanistan, Wang said, as part of China’s ambitious Belt and Road plan linking China with Asia, Europe and beyond.

He added that China hoped the economic corridor could benefit the whole region and act as an impetus for development.

Afghanistan has urgent need to develop and improve people’s lives and hopes it can join inter-connectivity initiatives, the foreign minister told reporters.

“So China and Pakistan are willing to look at with Afghanistan, on the basis of win-win, mutually beneficial principles, using an appropriate means to extend the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to Afghanistan,” he added.

How that could happen needs the three countries to reach a gradual consensus, tackling easier, smaller projects first, Wang said, without giving details.

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