Officials from Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the US are in the Afghan capital, Kabul, for talks aimed at formulating a roadmap to peace for the war-torn country. They come as Taliban rebels continue to wage violence.
The delegates from the four countries were to hold a one-day meeting at the Presidential Palace (pictured above) in the center of Kabul on Monday, a foreign ministry official said, adding that Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani would open the talks.
The meeting, held amid tight security, comes a week after a first round of discussions in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, ministry spokesman Shekib Mostaghni said.
"This meeting is important, as it will focus on the roadmap to bringing peace in Afghanistan," Mostaghni said.
He named the delegates as Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Karzai, US envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard G. Olson, his Chinese counterpart, Deng Xijun, and Pakistani Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry. All of them also took part in the Islamabad meeting.
The delegates are seeking to revive a process of direct dialogue between the Afghan government and Islamist Taliban insurgents, which have been waging a bloody 14-year war.
A landmark face-to-face meeting between the two sides took place last July, but the process was broken off after Kabul announced that longtime Taliban leader Mullah Omar had been dead for more than two years. The insurgents confirmed the death, setting off a spate of infighting within the group.
The renewed diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict in Afghanistan come as the Taliban intensify their insurgency, stepping up attacks in winter, which is usually a quieter period.
The increase in attacks reflects a security situation that has become even more fragile after the drawdown of international combat troops in 2014.
The peace process has been made yet more complicated by the fraught relations between Kabul and Islamabad, with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani last year publicly blaming Pakistan for using the Taliban to wage war on his country.
tj/rc (AFP, AP)