Washington: An Afghan peace envoy held secret talks with Taliban leaders in China last week which were also attended by Chinese officials and representatives of Pakistan’s spy agency ISI, a media report has said.
The meeting being held at the initiative of China, which in recent months has showed willingness to mediate between the Taliban and the Afghan government, was facilitated by the ISI, the Wall Street Journal said.
Such a meeting was held to discuss the possibility of talks between the Taliban and the elected Afghan government.
“People familiar with the meeting said Chinese officials and representatives of Pakistan’s spy agency — the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate or ISI — also attended the talks on May 19 and 20 in Urumqi, the capital of China’s western Xinjiang region,” the report said.
Chinese and Pakistani officials were not immediately reachable for comment, it said.
According to the daily, the Afghan delegation in China was led by Mohammad Masoom Stanikzai, who until last week was the most prominent member of the High Peace Council, the country’s peace-negotiating body.
The meetings come after a months-long diplomatic outreach led by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to reset ties with Pakistan after years of frosty relations in a bid to revive talks aimed at ending Afghanistan’s 13-year war.
Mohammad Asem, a former lawmaker and associate of Ghani’s coalition partner Abdullah Abdullah also participated in the Urumqi meeting.
The three former senior Taliban officials who attended – Mullah Abdul Jalil, Mullah Mohammad Hassan Rahmani and Mullah Abdul Razzaq – are based in Pakistan and they are close to the Taliban’s Quetta-based leadership council, the daily reported.
Maulvi Qalamuddin, a former top Taliban official, said the meeting represented a very-high level effort to discuss peace.
“These people are more important than those in Qatar,” Qalamuddin, who is now a member of the High Peace Council,told the daily.
“These talks are held secretly, and only a few people know about it,” he added.