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Taliban Confirms Afghan Peace Meetings with Pakistan, China, Others

FILE - Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, center, and delegates stand for the national anthem during the Kabul Process conference, at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, June 6, 2017.

Taliban political officials say they have submitted a report to their top leadership after concluding interactions with officials in Pakistan and representatives from other nations, including China and Qatar, on finding a solution to the Afghan war.

The announcement has rekindled hope an Afghan peace process could take root before this year's summer fighting.

In a Pashto-language statement circulated to media Wednesday, the Islamist insurgency confirmed for the first time that a five-member delegation from the Taliban’s Qatar-based Political Office recently traveled to Islamabad and held talks with officials there.

Pakistan offers to help

It said the visit was undertaken after the Pakistan government offered to help find a political solution to the Afghan conflict and exchange views with the Taliban.

Both sides shared and listened to each other’s views on how to promote a peaceful settlement to the war, according to the Taliban statement.

With the cooperation of Pakistan, it said, the Taliban delegation later met with officials from China, Qatar and other nations to discuss ways to end the conflict in Afghanistan.

"We have submitted our report to our leadership based on our discussions and will take further steps after receiving instructions from them," the statement added.

No comment from Pakistan

Officials in Pakistan have not yet commented, nor have they confirmed receiving Taliban officials. Diplomatic sources have confirmed to VOA the Taliban delegation visited Pakistan earlier this month.

A Taliban official has also confirmed to VOA that several members from the Qatar office traveled to Pakistan, but insisted they only met with their family members and held consultations with elders of the Afghan refugee community in the country.

The insurgent delegation consisted of Jan Muhammad Madnai, Maulvi Shahabud Din Dilawar, Syed Rasool Haleem, Muhammad Suhail Shaheen and Qari Deen Muhammad.

"The Islamic Emirate (the Taliban) wants to emphasize that it desires a durable solution to the Afghan issue but needs the root causes (to) be addressed first so that our people would be able to live peacefully," the Taliban reiterated in Wednesday’s statement.

Pakistan under US pressure

The Taliban visited Pakistan at a time when the country is under pressure from the United States to stop sheltering insurgent leaders, including those of the Taliban-allied Haqqani Network of terrorists.

Islamabad denies it is allowing the militants to use Pakistani soil for cross-border attacks.

U.S. President Donald Trump earlier this month suspended hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Pakistan until the country takes "decisive actions" against the terrorists fighting U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

After visiting Afghanistan as part of the United Nations Security Council delegation this month, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Trump’s new strategy was working.

"They [the Afghan government] are starting to see the Taliban concede, they are starting to see them move towards coming to the table," Haley said.