Senior officials from Afghanistan, the US, China and Pakistan started consultations here on Monday to push forward the peace process in Afghanistan. The quadrilateral process was launched during a meeting of the four countries on the sidelines of the Heart of Asia Conference in Islamabad last month.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif were present at the meeting, which was also attended by senior officials of China and the US. Pakistan's adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz told the opening session that the four-nation group will coordinate the peace process between the Taliban and the Afghan government. Aziz said no preconditions should be attached to the peace talks and all stakeholders should move forward in the spirit of a shared responsibility. He termed the process as of great significance to define the overall direction, goals and create a conducive atmosphere for the direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Deputy Foreign Minister of Afghanistan Hekmat Khalil Karzai represented a five-member delegation in the first meeting of the Quadrilateral Coordination Committee. Chinese special envoy for Afghanistan, Deng Xijun, US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Olsan and Pakistan Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry led their delegations. Diplomatic sources said the quadrilateral process was aimed at exploring options to revive the stalled dialogue between Kabul and the Taliban. The first Afghan peace talks were held at the Pakistani town of Murree near Islamabad in July but the process faced a deadlock after the death of former Taliban leader Mullah Omar was confirmed. Afghanistan pinned high hopes on the process as the stakeholders had agreed on action against the irreconcilable Taliban. The process is a significant window of opportunity for all stakeholders to work jointly to encourage the Taliban to come to the negotiation table. The Taliban leaders have not yet officially responded to the quadrilateral approach. However, senior Taliban leaders in reported remarks have insisted they were not opposed to the talks.