Pakistani government and Taliban hold talks
A long-awaited first round of peace talks between the Pakistani Taliban and the government has been held in Islamabad after numerous delays and growing doubt over the chance of their success.
The two sides met on Thursday for a preliminary meeting likely to chart a “road map” for future discussions, amid deep scepticism over whether dialogue can yield a lasting peace deal. The talks will resume on Friday.
Pakistani Taliban fighters have been battling for years to topple the central government and establish Islamic rule, but Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif believes the movement is now ready to find a negotiated settlement and stop the fighting.
In a statement after the meeting, which lasted over three hours, the two sides stressed their commitment to dialogue.
“Both committees concluded that all sides should refrain from any act that could damage the talks,” it said. “Both condemn recent acts of violence in Pakistan, saying such efforts should not sabotage the talks.”
Irfan Siddiqui, a government negotiator picked by Sharif, sent a text message from the meeting to the Reuters news agency, describing the atmosphere as “cordial and friendly”.
The peace initiative, which Sharif announced just as many were anticipating a major military offensive on Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) strongholds in the North Waziristan tribal area, got off to a chaotic start earlier this week.
The government delegation missed the planned opening meeting on Tuesday saying they were unsure of who was representing the TTP at the talks and what powers they had been given.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies