Islamabad, May 18: Pakistan, Afghanistan, the US and China today held a fresh round of talks here to chalk out a roadmap to revive peace talks with the Afghan Taliban and end the 15-year-long insurgency in the war-torn country.
The Quadrilateral Coordination Group said direct peace talks were the only option to end the violence in Afghanistan. "The QCG reiterated that violence serves no purpose and that peace negotiations remain the only option for a political settlement," said an official statement after the fifth QCG meeting.
"In this respect, QCG countries reaffirmed to use their respective leverages and influences." The meeting comes only days after the Afghan government hanged six Taliban-linked militants, in one the starkest signs of their frustration at the lack of progress of the talks.
And a surge in violence has only rattled Kabul. Taliban insurgents in recent months have repeatedly seized parts of the more than 2,000-mile-long Ring Road network, which connects major Afghan population centres.
Last month, more than 64 people were killed in a terrible Kabul bombing. The four-nation grouping today condemned the terrorist attack and underscored that those who perpetrate such acts "should be ready to face consequences of their actions."
They expressed their continued determination with shared commitment to advance the goal of an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process. The group said that the next QCG meeting will be convened as mutually agreed.
The last meeting was held on February 23 in Kabul and the Afghan government had announced that peace talks with the Taliban would start in the first week of March. But the talks could not start as Taliban refused to join.
Direct Afghan-Taliban talks began last year but ended abruptly after it was revealed that the Taliban's founder Mullah Omar had been dead for two years, sparking factional fight among the insurgents.
The Islamist group has made the withdrawal of the 13,000 foreign troops still in Afghanistan a precondition for talks. Pakistan's Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry hosted the fifth QCG meeting in Islamabad.
Other delegations were led by Afghan President's Special Envoy and Ambassador to Pakistan Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal, US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Ambassador Richard G Olson, and China's Special Envoy for Afghan Affairs Ambassador Deng Xijun.