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Pakistani-US officials to talks in Islamabad on Afghan peace process

29 April, 2019

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Pakistani and the US officials will begin talks in Islamabad on Afghan peace process on Monday (today) ahead of a new round of US-Taliban negotiations in Qatar, according to the Foreign Office.

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Dr Faisal said Khalilzad is due in Islamabad on Monday for talks on Afghan peace process. Khalilzad is currently in Afghanistan where he has met President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and other leaders.

The State Department had earlier said the special envoy will visit Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia and the United Kingdom from April 21 to May 11, as part of the ‘overall effort to facilitate a political settlement that ends the conflict in Afghanistan’.

In Islamabad, Khalilzad will hold meetings with Pakistani officials as part of regular consultations on bilateral relationship and the Afghan peace process. He will be accompanied by US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Ambassador Alice Wells.  This is Khalilzad’s second visit to Pakistan this month.

In an interview with Afghanistan’s largest private television station, Tolo News, on Sunday, Khalilzad said any peace agreement with the Afghan Taliban will depend on the declaration of a permanent ceasefire and a commitment to end the country’s long war. He said the Taliban’s demands are focused on the withdrawal of US forces from the country. “Our focus is on terrorism. No agreement will be done if we don’t see a permanent ceasefire and a commitment to end the war,” he said. “We are seeking peace and (a) political settlement … We want peace to give us the possibility to withdraw,” he added.

Taliban political spokesman Suhail Shaheen, meanwhile, told Daily Times on Sunday that Taliban and the US will hold detailed talks on the two core issues and will make efforts to ‘finalise’ them. No date has been decided for the next round, and Shaheen did not offer any comment when asked when the new round is scheduled.

Despite boycott by senior Afghan political leaders, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani will hold a consultative ‘Loya Jirga’, or grand assembly, to discuss peace with the Taliban. Taliban have already rejected the jirga as an attempt by ‘American servants to mislead the Afghan nation and to harm the peace process’.

The Pakistani side at the dialogue comprises representatives from the diplomatic and military corps, Afghan specialists, economic gurus, media professionals and civil society representatives. The recommendations and outcome of the conference will be shared with the relevant authorities in both the countries so as to help in formulating pragmatic and sustainable policies for promotion of bilateral relations.

Besides the official track, experts will hold two-day Afghanistan-Pakistan Track-II Bilateral Dialogue on April 29-30. A 10-member delegation from Afghanistan, led by the former Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal, arrived in Islamabad on Sunday to participate in the Track-II dialogue to be held on April 29-30. Prospects and challenges of the ongoing reconciliation process in Afghanistan will be discussed during the dialogue. The forum will give its recommendations on institutional mechanism to ensure peace and stability post-reconciliation.

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