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Pakistani Taliban agree on direct talks with government: Negotiator

Friday, 14 March 2014 - 9:53pm IST | Place: ISLAMABAD | Agency: IANS

The Pakistani Taliban have agreed to hold face-to-face talks with the government, a senior member of the Taliban dialogue committee, Mohammad Ibrahim, said Friday.

Ibrahim, who wrapped up his two-day talks with the Taliban leaders in Waziristan tribal region, told a news conference on return that his talks were constructive, and said the Taliban leaders would now hold direct talks with a government negotiation team, Xinhua reported.

The Taliban intermediary travelled to Waziristan tribal region Thursday for talks with members of the Taliban political council to decide the venue and agenda for the proposed direct talks with the government.

"The Taliban have proposed a venue for the coming talks that will be shared with the government team," leader of the Taliban intermediaries, Maulana Samiul Haq, told a news conference at his religious school in the northwestern town of Akora Khattak.

Ibrahim briefed Maulana Samiul Haq about his talks with the Taliban leaders before the mediators discussed strategy for the next meeting with the government team, expected Saturday or Sunday.

"We want a meeting with the government as soon as possible," Maulana Samiul Haq said. He urged both the government and the Taliban to show flexibility for progress in the direct talks and called upon the government to free all non-combatant prisoners, and the Taliban to release all detainees with them.

"This will be a goodwill gesture and could push the peace process forward," he said.

A government negotiation team started peace talks with the Taliban intermediaries last month, which resulted in a month-long unilateral ceasefire by the Taliban.

In a positive response to the Taliban's ceasefire March 1, the security forces also suspended air strikes on the Taliban hideouts in Waziristan tribal region.

The government has now formed another high-level committee comprising top government officials for direct talks with the Taliban, as decisions will be taken in the next round of negotiations.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has also started consultations with political leaders to reach a consensus about the coming talks. He has also appealed to the political parties outside the parliament to support his government's peace efforts.

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