ISLAMABAD: Leaders of Afghanistan must seize the historic opportunity to work together constructively and secure an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement to the years-long conflict in their country, Pakistan said on Saturday at the start of the long-awaited Afghan peace talks in Qatar.
The talks were set to take place in March but have repeatedly been delayed over a prisoner exchange agreement made as part of the US-Taliban deal signed in February this year.
Qatar's foreign ministry made the announcement on Thursday after the Afghan government released the last batch of six Taliban prisoners, clearing the last hurdle for the negotiations to start.
Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi addressed the commencement of intra-Afghan negotiations in Qatar through a video link, Pakistan Foreign Office said.
He said the Afghan leaders must seize the historic opportunity to work together constructively and secure an inclusive, broad-based, and comprehensive political settlement.
"We hope all sides will honour their respective commitments, persevere in the face of all challenges and setbacks, and remain unflinchingly committed to achieving a positive outcome," he said.
Qureshi said that Pakistan had walked alongside Afghanistan in every possible way by encouraging a reduction in violence and by urging dialogue and negotiations.
"Pakistan has fully facilitated the process that culminated in the US-Taliban Peace Agreement in Doha on February 29, 2020, and has reached this juncture," he said, adding that the start of the talks was the result of combined efforts.
"The forthcoming negotiations are for the Afghans to decide about their future.
The Afghans alone must be the masters of their destiny, without outside influence or interference," he said.