UN,July 9: United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his Special Representative in Afghanistan Nicholas Haysom have welcomed direct talks between Afghan government and the Taliban representatives in Pakistan, urging both parties to move towards reconciliation and peace.
In a statement issued on Wednesday by his spokesperson, Ban welcomed the direct talks between Afghan Government and the Taliban, which were held in Islamabad on 7 July.
"The Secretary-General reiterates his support for an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process. He expresses his appreciation for the commitment of the parties and the constructive role of the host, Pakistan," said the statement.
In a separate news release, Haysom, who is also head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, also welcomed the direct talks and urged both parties to move towards reconciliation and peace.
Recalling that at last month's briefing to the UN Security Council he had specifically urged direct talks between the parties, Haysom reiterated the Afghan people's desire to end the pervasive violence affecting every aspect of their lives.
"In the long term, peace is not a luxury, it is a necessity," Haysom said. "I welcome the direct face-to-face engagement by the parties as the only way to achieving progress towards a negotiated agreement and ultimately the peace that Afghanistan deserves."
Noting the importance of acknowledging the talks as the beginning of what could be a long and challenging process, Haysom expressed his appreciation to the parties for taking this significant first step and to the Government of Pakistan for hosting the meeting.
These talks should be recognised as the outcome of the recent concerted efforts at rebuilding relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan, he said.
Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Leila Zerrougui urged the Afghan government to inject child protection measures into any further negotiations that flow from its first direct talks with Taliban representatives.
"It's essential to highlight the importance of child protection from the very start of talks," Zerrougui said.
The Taliban, Haqqani Network and Hezb-e-Islami are considered to be persistent perpetrators of violations against children in Afghanistan, and all three groups have been listed as such since 2007 in the UN Secretary-General's global Annual Report on children and armed conflict.
The groups continue to use children to make, transport and plant improvised explosive devices, and force them to conduct suicide attacks, Zerrougui said, reflecting findings outlined in the latest of the Secretary-General's country reports on Afghanistan, which covers the period 1 September 2010 to 31 December 2014.