By Islamuddin Sajid
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AA) - The visiting Taliban delegation met the top U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Islamabad for the first time after U.S. President Donald Trump ended negotiations with Taliban last month, an official said on Saturday.
Taliban delegation led by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar met with Khalilzad on late Friday, a senior official from the foreign ministry told Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity.
However, when contacted, foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Faisal as well as the U.S. embassy in Islamabad refused to comment on the meeting.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, however, did not deny the meeting with the top U.S. envoy in Islamabad.
"I have no information about the meeting with Khalilzad as so far I have not received any details from our delegation," Mujahid told AA over phone.
Khalilzad departed for Washington on Saturday after meeting with the Taliban delegation, local broadcaster Geo News reported.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had confirmed that Taliban leaders would meet U.S. top peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in the capital Islamabad.
"Afghan Taliban representatives are here in Islamabad and how long they will stay here, I couldn't say anything about this, but they will meet Zalmay Khalilzad," Qureshi told Hum News, a local broadcaster late Thursday.
A 12-member delegation of the Afghan Taliban political office in Doha arrived in Islamabad late Wednesday night at the invitation of the Pakistani government, marking the first-ever visit of a Taliban delegation to Islamabad since the insurgents established their political office in Qatar in 2013.
Khalilzad, a top U.S. peace negotiator, along with his team was also arrived in Islamabad on Tuesday ahead of the delegation.
On Thursday morning, the Taliban delegation visited Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry where they met with foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and other senior officials.
According to a ministry statement, Pakistan and the Taliban agreed on the need for “earliest resumption” of stalled Afghan peace talks with the U.S. in a bid to end the 18-year-long conflict in Afghanistan.
On Sept. 9, U.S. President Donald Trump abruptly canceled a meeting in the U.S. with representatives of the Afghan government and Taliban.
Trump declared the peace talks with the Taliban "dead," citing a recent attack in Afghanistan's capital Kabul which killed a dozen people, including a U.S. service member.
The raging Afghan conflict is in its 18th year, with thousands of lives lost and millions forced to flee their homes. The UN has repeatedly urged that opportunities for peace in the region be seized.
Last month, meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan asked Trump to resume peace talks with the Taliban.