Safe passage for Afghan Taliban to be considered

Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States agreed Friday to look at ways to provide safe passage to Afghan Taliban who are willing to join the peace process, officials said.

The US special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman met Afghan deputy foreign minister Javed Ludin and Pakistani foreign secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani in Islamabad for the latest talks on the war-torn country's future.

They agreed to set up a group to look at how Taliban fighters who wanted to be part of the peace process could be included, Jilani told a news conference, saying it was an important achievement but without giving details.

Afghan deputy minister Ludin hailed the outcome, saying: "We need to bring those in the process who are willing to integrate in peaceful life in Afghanistan."

"We need to find them, encourage them and provide safe passage to them," he said.

The United States and allied countries fighting the insurgents view talks with the Taliban as crucial to bringing the war to an end, and no longer predict a decisive victory on the battlefield against the militants.

Kabul has said repeatedly that it is in negotiations with the Taliban, but the militia publicly refuses to deal with the government and last month said it had suspended contacts with the Americans in Qatar over a prisoner exchange.

Friday's talks came nearly two weeks after the Taliban launched spectacular coordinated attacks on Kabul -- the biggest on the capital in 10 years of war -- to mark the start of the Afghan "fighting season".

Grossman's visit was his first to Pakistan since relations plunged in November last year over a NATO air strike near the border with Afghanistan that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

The US special representative held talks with Pakistani officials Thursday as part of efforts to repair ties between the two "war on terror" allies.

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