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Four-Way Afghan Peace Talks Set to Resume in Oman

FILE - Delegations from Afghanistan, Pakistan, The United States of America and China discuss a road map for ending the war with the Taliban at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 18, 2016.

Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States are set to resume four-way discussions Monday in Oman in a renewed bid to seek a politically negotiated settlement to the Afghan war.

The meeting of the so-called Quadrilateral Cooperation Group, or QCG, in the Gulf state is taking place after a gap of 16 months. Senior foreign ministry officials from the four nations will lead their respective delegations at the talks.

“The objective is to bring the warring factions within Afghanistan to the negotiating table. It is upon all members of QCG to meet and decide on how to move forward in this context,” Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Nafees Zakaria said on the eve of Monday’s meeting.

The QCG was launched in January 2016. The aim was for members to use their respective influence on the Afghan government and the Taliban insurgency to nudge them to the negotiating table.

But the peace process broke down after a fifth session in May of that year, when a U.S. drone attack killed the Taliban Chief, Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, while he was traveling through the Pakistani province of Baluchistan.

The insurgents’ reluctance to engage in peace talks with the Afghan government and Kabul’s strained relations with Islamabad also hampered previous QCG sessions from making any significant headway.

While officials have reported a thaw in bilateral relations following recent high-level meetings between Afghan and Pakistani leaders, the Taliban has reiterated its stance of not engaging in peace negotiations with Kabul until all American and NATO forces withdraw from Afghanistan.

A senior insurgent official told VOA his group has “nothing to do” with the QCG process.

“Nobody has contacted us, nor are we participating in this meeting,” the official said requesting anonymity as he was not authorized to publicly discuss Taliban political matters.

The Islamist insurgency currently controls or contests more than 40 percent of Afghan territory and continues to make battlefield gains despite intensified ground operations and airstrikes by U.S.-backed Afghan security forces.

Pakistani officials blamed Washington for scuttling the four-way process by eliminating Mansoor.

For their part, Afghan and U.S. officials complained Islamabad was not doing enough to prevent the Taliban from using sanctuaries on Pakistani soil to orchestrate insurgent attacks in Afghanistan, charges Pakistan denied.

Diplomatic sources told VOA that participating nations this time have agreed to revive the QCG process with a commitment to maintain secrecy of its proceedings.