ISLAMABAD: US Special Envoy for Afghan Peace and Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad has said he awaits “concrete progress” on Afghan peace talks.
The envoy on the second day of his current trip to Pakistan on Friday met Prime Minister Imran Khan and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.
In a tweet after his meeting with Mr Qureshi, Ambassador Khalilzad said he had a “good meeting” in which “the important role regional countries like Pakistan have in helping deliver peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan” was discussed.
Mr Qureshi, he said, assured him of Pakistan’s support. “I look forward to concrete progress,” he added.
However, in a late night development, Taliban spokesman poured cold water on hopes of an immediate breakthrough by denying reports about an impending meeting with US side.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid tweeted: “Rumors about some meeting between US representative @US4AfghanPeace (Zalmay Khalilzad) & representatives of Islamic Emirate in Islamabad are untrue.”
PM Khan tells Zalmay Khalilzad Pakistan remains committed to facilitating peace process in Afghanistan
Ambassador Khalilzad had reached Islamabad on Thursday and met Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua and Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa.
The visit is taking place against the backdrop of a deadlock in talks between the United States and Taliban over initiation of a reconciliation process. The impasse has been caused by Taliban’s refusal to talk to the Afghan government.
The US had initiated direct contacts with the Taliban in July last year, but the recent most meeting in Abu Dhabi last month was facilitated by Pakistan after President Donald Trump requested Prime Minister Imran Khan to help in the reconciliation process. Washington has, therefore, ramped up pressure on Islamabad to play its role in overcoming the gridlock and moving towards intra-Afghan dialogue.
Prime Minister Khan and Army Chief Gen Bajwa had on Thursday reaffirmed their support for peace talks. Mr Khan reiterated that position during his meeting with Ambassador Khalilzad and said Pakistan remained committed to facilitating the peace process in Afghanistan.
Reports indicate that Pakistan is making efforts to arrange a meeting between the US envoy and Taliban representatives so that they could negotiate the way out of the deadlock. Although it is not clear what steps were being taken by Pakistan to coax the Taliban back into talks with the US, there were reports earlier in the week that Pakistani authorities briefly detained a senior Taliban figure, Hafiz Mohibullah, from Peshawar to pressure the insurgent leaders based here to resume contacts with US officials.
A VoA report said Pakistani officials appeared confident about bringing the two sides to the negotiating table. However, the official sources cited in the report maintained that the responsibility for the “success or failure” of the fledgling Afghan peace process rested “exclusively” with the two negotiating sides.
Foreign Minister Qureshi had last week while talking to Dawn said: “We want them to sit together. It is for Afghans to sort out their problems and as long as they do not sit down and talk to each other, outsiders can do little to help them.”
Published in Dawn, January 19th, 2019