Pakistan's Taliban movement intimated Monday it would consider peace talks with the US-backed Islamabad government, a local paper reported.
"Our shura [council] will decide whether and when we can enter into talks with the government, with the military," the Express Tribune quoted Maulvi Wali-ur-Rahman Mehsud, deputy leader of the Pakistani Taliban, as saying. "But I think we would like to involve countries we trust … they are in the Arab world. Let's say Saudi Arabia."
"Until now, we don't have any direct peace offer … our shura will sit down when we are approached. That is how we operate. There is one centralised body to take important decisions," Meshud told the paper.
The statement by the nation's greatest security threat came in response to a statement issued last month by Pakistan's government they would seek to reconcile with the Taliban and end the insurgency.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, who consulted with the leaders of all parties, as well as top military and intelligence officials, was quoted by newspapers as saying the government was ready to pursue peace.
Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, or Taliban Movement of Pakistan (TTP), which is close to Al Qaida, was formed in December 2007 as an alliance of Pakistani militant groups to attack the Pakistani state. It has been blamed for numerous terror bombings in the country.
Several army offensives against TTP strongholds on the Afghan border have failed to bring the terror movement down. Thousands of Pakistani soldiers, policemen and civilians have been killed in during the insurgency.
The shift towards reconciliation with the TTP by Islamabad could anger Washington, who lists the group as a foreign terror organization.
But observers say tension with officials in Washington over targeted killing of Osama Bin Laden by US forces on Pakistani soil, as well as mounting domestic pressure to end the insurgency, may lead Islamabad to chart its own course.
In doing so Pakistani officials are likely, observers say, to look for mediators in the Arab world, rather than Washington, which could signal a shift away from cooperation with the West.