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Pakistan to persuade Taliban to attend Istanbul summit

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Pakistan has assured Afghanistan that it will make all-out efforts to persuade the Taliban to join the Istanbul Conference as Islamabad believes that the insurgent group will be making a "huge mistake" if it stays out of the process.

The assurance was given by a Pakistani delegation led by Special Envoy on Afghanistan Ambassador Muhammad Sadiq during a visit to Kabul this week. The delegation included senior military and intelligence officials as well as representatives of other ministries.

"It was a visit that was strategic in nature," a senior Pakistani official privy to the development said.

The Pakistani delegation met senior Afghanistan officials including national security adviser, acting foreign Minister, Afghan special envoy on Pakistan, Afghan politicians as well as representatives of Afghan military and intelligence.

One of the key agenda items on the table was how to convince the Taliban to join the Istanbul Conference.

The conference in Turkey to be jointly hosted by Turkey, Qatar and UN has been postponed twice due to the Taliban's refusal to join it.

The moot, part of the Biden administration's push to seek a peace deal, was to be attended by foreign ministers from Pakistan, Iran, India, China, Russia and the US.

The Taliban are adamant they will not join the conference since the US violated the Doha deal by extending the troops withdrawal deadline.

In Kabul, the Afghan authorities requested Pakistani side to use its influence on the Taliban in a bid to ensure they end the boycott of peace process.

"We have assured them that Pakistan will try its best to convince the Taliban," the official said. He was of the view that it would be unwise on part of the Taliban to stay out of the process.

The official was confident that the Taliban will eventually join the Istanbul Conference, which is now rescheduled after the holy month of Ramazan.

Meanwhile, Umer Daudzai, Afghan President Ghani’s special envoy for Pakistan, told TOLOnews that his Pakistani counterpart assured them that the Taliban will agree on a reduction in violence and ceasefire with their participation at the peace summits.

“They brought the message that they will work with all their resources to convince the Taliban to agree to a ceasefire and that the Taliban should not miss the chance for talks. They were referring to the Istanbul conference,” Daudzai said.

But the Pakistani official made it clear that while Islamabad would use all its efforts to convince the Taliban, it would not guarantee the success.

Pakistan has played a central role in brokering the Doha deal in February 2020 that envisaged a road map for troops withdrawal in return for the Taliban agreeing not to allow Afghan soil to be used again by terrorist groups and entering into the intra-Afghan dialogue.

However, the peace process hangs in balance after President Biden took over as he had announced to review the deal. After months of review, he last week announced that all US troops would pull out of Afghanistan by September 11. However, the drawdown would begin from May 1, the original deadline when US forces were to complete the withdrawal.

Pakistan is hoping the troops withdrawal would be responsible and orderly and that the drawdown would coincide with the progress in the peace process.