By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry has announced that peace talks scheduled for July 31 between Afghan government negotiators and Taliban representatives have been postponed due to reports of the death of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar.
In a July 30 statement, Islamabad said Kabul’s announcement on July 29 of Mullah Omar’s death had resulted in “uncertainty,” and that it was postponing the second round of talks “at the request of the Afghan Taliban leadership.”
Meanwhile, the Reuters news agency and Al-Jazeera quote Afghan Taliban commanders as saying that the militant group’s most senior figures met on July 30 and agreed to appoint Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansur as the new Afghan Taliban leader.
Mansur had organized the Taliban delegation’s presence at the first round of face-to-face peace talks with Afghan government negotiators, which took place in Pakistan on July 7.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed the death of Mullah Omar due to an illness, in a July 30 statement sent to the media.
Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security said in its statement that Mullah Omar died as a result of “mysterious circumstances.”
Afghanistan’s National Security Council told RFE/RL on July 30 that it was unable to confirm Mullah Mansur’s selection as a replacement for Mullah Omar.
Earlier on July 30, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Qazi Khalilullah said Islamabad can neither confirm nor deny reports of Mullah Omar’s death.
He said Pakistani authorities are still investigating the July 29 announcement by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s office that Omar had died from an illness at a hospital in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi.
After announcing the postponement of the peace talks, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said it hopes the Taliban leadership “will stay engaged in the process of peace talks in order to promote a lasting peace in Afghanistan.”
It also said it hopes that Taliban splinter groups, which have “wanted to undermine the peace talks, will not succeed in their designs.”
On the morning of July 30, the Taliban’s main spokesman rejected reports that a fresh round of peace talks had been planned with Taliban representatives and the Afghan government this week.
Citing media reports that peace talks would take place soon in China or Pakistan, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the Taliban political office that is empowered to conduct negotiations was “not aware of any such process.”