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Afghan Negotiator Upbeat About Prospect of Taliban Talks

Afghanistan’s deputy foreign minister, Hekmat Khalil Karzai, right, and Pakistani foreign affairs adviser Sartaj Aziz exchange greetings before a four-nation meeting to develop a peace process for Afghanistan. Richard Olson, U.S. special representative fo

A top Afghan official says he is confident a renewed push to resurrect stalled peace talks with Taliban groups for ending “the senseless” conflict in Afghanistan will yield positive results.

Senior Afghan, U.S., Pakistani and Chinese diplomats met Monday in Islamabad to coordinate efforts to try to pave the way for a new round in the Afghan reconciliation process.

Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai, who led the Afghan delegation in the talks, briefed reporters Tuesday about the meeting and promised further progress when the four-nation group meets again in Kabul on January 18.

“Afghanistan has created a 'road map.' This road map in this discussion was shared with our Pakistani, Chinese and American colleagues. This road map consists of three elements or three phases. The first phase specifically is the pre-negotiation period, second component is the peace talks, direct negotiations [with Taliban groups], and the third phase is the implementation plan,” said Karzai, a cousin of former president Hamid Karzai.

Afghan and U.S. officials believe the Taliban leadership is sheltering in Pakistan, amid allegations Pakistan's military uses the group as its proxy force in Afghanistan.

Despite prevailing Afghan skepticism about Pakistan’s intentions, Karzai sounded upbeat about the new push for peace.

“Because, for the first time now, we have a process where two of our very close friends and strategic partners are now monitoring the process. While Afghans are extremely at times quite doubtful of certain processes, the fact that we have the United States and China being part of this process it gives us assurance,” Karzai said.

The Taliban has not indicated whether it is willing to return to the negotiating table.

Karzai said the Afghan government is open to talks with any group fighting the insurgency, adding the Afghan people and politicians are running out of patience and support for the peace process, and want to see concrete progress during the coming weeks.

He reiterated Afghan security forces are determined to deal with insurgent groups that are intent on fighting the state.