Kabul: The Afghan government on Wednesday confirmed holding face-to-face peace talks with the Taliban at a hill resort in neighbouring Pakistan and said the dialogue will continue after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

“The first ever formal talks for peace between the delegation of High Peace Council of Afghanistan and Afghan Taliban group was held in Murree city of Pakistan last night and the second round of talks would be held after Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month,” a statement of the Afghan foreign ministry released here said.

Aimed at contacting anti-government militants and established by former president Hamid Karzai in 2010, the 70-member High Peace Council (HPC) was authorised to contact the Taliban and other insurgents groups to convince them to give up fighting, boost reconciliation process and help government in reconstruction process of the war-ravaged country, Xinhua news agency reported.

“The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, while welcoming the beginning of the formal talks as the first step towards achieving peace, is hopeful that the process could facilitate the way for achieving lasting and honourable peace in the country,” the statement further added.

The Afghan foreign ministry in the statement also thanked Pakistan for facilitating and hosting the first ever direct talks between the delegation of High Peace Council and the Taliban.

Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai reportedly led a four-member delegation during talks with Taliban delegation in Pakistan on Tuesday night. 

According to an earlier report from Islamabad, the Afghan officials and Taliban representatives have agreed to “continue talks to create an environment conducive for peace and reconciliation process”, authorities said on Wednesday.

The talks, hosted by Pakistan in Murree, a hill resort near Islamabad, ended on Wednesday morning.

“The next meeting would be held at a mutually convenient date after Ramadan,” Xinhua quoted a Pakistan foreign ministry spokesman as saying.

Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai led a four-member delegation that included representatives of the High Peace Council and advisers to the Afghan president, the chief executive.

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who is in Oslo, lauded the peace talks and said the talks were a “major breakthrough”.

“…We should make sure that nobody tries to derail this process as it is not only the obligation of Afghanistan, Pakistan and other parties, but also the obligation of international community,” he added.

Representatives of China and the US also participated in the meeting, the foreign ministry said.

“We also thank other partners in peace, including the United Nations, for their contribution to peace, stability and development of Afghanistan,” the Pakistan foreign ministry added.

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