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Pakistan team holds first direct talks with Taliban

By Zahir Shah Sherazi and Aliza Kassim, CNN
updated 12:34 PM EDT, Wed March 26, 2014
Maulana Sami ul Haq, a negotiator for the TTP, in Islamabad on March 22, 2014.
Maulana Sami ul Haq, a negotiator for the TTP, in Islamabad on March 22, 2014.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Talks to be held in tribal region of North Waziristan
  • It's the first direct contact between both sides
  • Pakistan Taliban announced a cease-fire on March 1
  • Pakistan prime minister is under pressure to bring violence under control

(CNN) -- Pakistani government representatives on Wednesday met the Taliban for peace talks in the tribal region of North Waziristan, in the first direct contact between the two sides.

Militants from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, have long conducted an insurgency against the Pakistani government and have claimed a number of violent attacks.

The government team flew by helicopter from Peshawar to meet the Taliban negotiators at an undisclosed location, sources and state media said.

TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid told CNN the talks, which ended in the evening, were held in a conducive environment. He said both sides had agreed to extend a cease-fire, agreed on March 1, and that there was consensus on the exchange of noncombatants held by both sides.

He said both sides were optimistic.

Pakistanis view of talks with Taliban

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced the initiative this year, but talks broke down last month in the wake of attacks by the group.

The government said extension of the cease-fire would top the agenda at the talks, according to Pakistan's APP news agency. It also quoted a Taliban committee member as saying his side was demanding the release of noncombatants

The militants, who are fighting for their austere version of Sharia law across Pakistan, have repeatedly rejected the country's constitution.

Since taking office last year, Sharif faced mounting pressure to bring the violence under control.

Pakistan suspends peace talks with Pakistani Taliban

CNN's Marie-Louise Gumuchian contributed to this report.

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