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US assured of support for peace in Afghanistan

December 05, 2018

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FOREIGN Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi shakes hands with Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad on Tuesday.
FOREIGN Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi shakes hands with Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad on Tuesday.

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Tuesday reaffirmed Pakistan’s support for the Afghan peace process in his meeting with US Special Envoy for Afghan reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad.

“Pakistan will continue to cooperate with sincerity for political settlement in Afghanistan. Long-lasting peace in Afghanistan is in Pakistan’s best interest,” Mr Qureshi tweeted after his meeting with the visiting US special envoy.

Ambassador Khalilzad is on his third visit to Pakistan since he took charge of the office dealing with peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan in September. He accompanied Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Islamabad just a day after his appointment and later again came here in October. His planned visit in November was cancelled because of scheduling issues.

Despite reservations over his appointment, Pakistan extended full support to him because of its principled position about supporting efforts for peace in Afghanistan and secondly to capitalise on the shift in the Trump administration’s policy towards negotiations with the Taliban.

American Special Envoy Khalilzad meets Foreign Minister Qureshi, leads delegation-level talks with Foreign Secretary Janjua

In a major gesture to Washington in October after Mr Khalilzad’s visit, Pakistan had set free former Taliban deputy chief Mullah Baradar. Foreign Office spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal had on that occasion said that Baradar was released “at the US request in order to move forward on the shared objective of pursuing a political settlement in Afghanistan”.

There was, however, a brief hiccup afterwards due to US President Donald Trump’s interview and a twitter exchange with Prime Minister Imran Khan in which he questioned Pakistan’s contributions in the fight against terrorism, saying it did not “do anything for us, they don’t do a damn thing for us”.

However, in an effort to salvage the situation, Mr Khalilzad’s Islamabad trip was preceded by a letter from President Trump to Prime Minister Khan in which he sought Pakistan’s help for the peace process and at the same time acknowledged that Pakistan suffered from terrorism. The letter managed to set a positive tone for the special envoy’s visit.

“It was a pleasure meeting Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad,” Mr Qureshi said.

FO spokesman Mohammad Faisal, meanwhile, said: “The FM assured the US side of Pakistan’s steadfast support for a negotiated settlement.” He said Mr Khalilzad reiterated President Trump’s desire to seek Pakistan’s cooperation for peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Ambassador Khalilzad and his team held delegation-level talks with Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua. “Officials from diplomatic, security and defence from both sides were present at the meeting. Peace and political settlement in Afghanistan was discussed,” the FO spokesman said.

Mr Khalilzad had in an interview before he embarked on his latest trip to the region said that he had been reassuring Pakistani leaders that the US was “not seeking an Afghanistan as the result of a political settlement that’s hostile to them”. He said that it was time for Pakistan to “play a positive role” for peace in Afghanistan.

Published in Dawn, December 5th, 2018

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