Top US and Taleban negotiators meet in Islamabad

A Taleban source confirmed that US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad (above) and Taleban representatives had met in Islamabad on Oct 3, 2019. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD (DPA) - Top negotiators from the United States and the Taleban sat together in Islamabad in a fresh push to revive the Afghan peace process, a month after talks collapsed, officials said.

"US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taleban representatives met in Islamabad," said a Pakistani official on the condition of anonymity.

He said both the Taleban representatives and US envoy were staying in Islamabad until Sunday and may meet again. There was a possibility that the Taleban leaders meet Prime Minister Imran Khan, he said.

A Taleban source confirmed that the first face-to-face meeting between the US chief negotiator and Taleban took place on Thursday, while the other source said it was followed up on Friday.

After arranging the meeting, Pakistan was trying to persuade the Taleban on the ceasefire issue, one of the major concerns that led US President Donald Trump to pull out of peace talks, the official said.

The Taleban delegation is being led by the group's co-founder and head of the political wing, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who remained in custody in Pakistan for eight years before being released in 2018 to facilitate the peace process in Afghanistan.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi confirmed that a meeting between the Taleban and the US delegations was scheduled.

Khalilzad has been shuttling back and forth to the Pakistani capital since Trump asked Islamabad in December for help in bringing the Taleban to the negotiating table.

The US and Afghanistan accuse Islamabad of backing Taleban factions, a charge Pakistan denies.

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