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Aziz plans to visit Kabul on Saturday

July 18, 2013
British Foreign Secretary William Hague (L) looks on during a joint press conference as Sartaj Aziz (R), Pakistan's adviser for National Security and Foreign Affairs, speaks at the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad.—Photo by Tanveer Shahzad/Dawn
British Foreign Secretary William Hague (L) looks on during a joint press conference as Sartaj Aziz (R), Pakistan's adviser for National Security and Foreign Affairs, speaks at the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad.—Photo by Tanveer Shahzad/Dawn

ISLAMABAD: Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs and National Security Sartaj Aziz will go to Kabul on Saturday on a daylong ice-breaking trip.

Mr Aziz disclosed his plans to travel to Afghanistan for delivering an invitation to President Hamid Karzai from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to visit Pakistan, at a press conference along with British Foreign Secretary William Hague after their talks.

Unravelling of Islamabad-Kabul ties has impeded international efforts for peace in Afghanistan and world leaders have been encouraging both countries to mend fences.

“Good relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan are fundamental to the security of the region,” Mr Hague said and added that the UK was ready to help the two countries bridge their gulf.

The British foreign secretary’s visit comes two and half weeks after Prime Minister David Cameron travelled to Pakistan and Afghanistan to persuade their leaders to develop a cooperative relationship.

During his Kabul visit, Mr Aziz will try to address some of the contentious issues that have tended to sour bilateral ties in recent months. He will also talk about trade and economy with his Afghan interlocutors even though the otherwise important issues look peripheral given the acrimonious phase of relationship through which the two countries are currently passing.

Afghan leaders have unleashed a running diatribe against Pakistan as their relationship dips to new lows. As Mr Aziz’s visit to Kabul was finalised, his Afghan counterpart Rangin Dadfar Spanta fired yet another salvo in a radio interview saying Pakistan was a bigger threat to peace than Al Qaeda.

The anger against Pakistan in Kabul’s power echelons is out of fear that Islamabad could be trying to bring the Taliban back to power.

Mr Aziz would in Kabul, one of his aides said, reiterate Pakistan’s commitment to a peaceful and united Afghanistan, and offer help to revive the Doha process which collapsed because of controversy over the name of office and raising of flag.

At the press briefing, Mr Aziz expressed the hope that the difficult patch in the Doha process would be overcome and discussions between the Taliban and the US would start soon. He was, however, unsure when the Taliban and Afghan High Peace Council — the Afghan body that coordinates reconciliation process — would meet and said that Pakistan, the UK and the US were all working towards that end.

Mr Aziz’s meeting with Afghan Ambassador Umar Daudzai over a fortnight ago, in which the Afghan side claimed he (Mr Aziz) had proposed to the Afghan government to share power with the Taliban, sparked a serious diplomatic row.