US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad on Friday said he "greatly appreciate[s]" a statement issued by Prime Minister Imran Khan a day earlier in which the latter regretted a new wave of violence "from all sides" in Afghanistan and reiterated Islamabad's support for the peace process in the war-torn country.
"Greatly appreciate @ImranKhanPTI’s statement yesterday on Afghanistan," Khalilzad said in a tweet.
He said Prime Minister Imran's "appeal for reduction of violence and policy against promoting internal conflict in other nations has [the] potential to positively transform the region and give Pakistan a leading role".
Pakistan had on Thursday pledged neutrality in the Afghan conflict and at the same time denounced both the Taliban’s spring offensive and intensified security operations by Afghan forces, saying such actions weaken prospects for peace, Dawn reported.
“The so-called offensives are condemnable and will undermine the peace process. It is not right to seek an edge in dialogue through coercion,” Prime Minister Imran said in a policy statement on Afghan peace. “Pakistan is highly dismayed by the surge of violence in Afghanistan from all sides,” he added.
The statement was made as a United Nations report revealed that more Afghan civilians were killed by coalition forces than Taliban and other terrorist groups in the first quarter of 2019. The report said that 305 civilians were killed by coalition forces, while terrorist groups were responsible for the killing of 227 people.
The UN Assistance Mission for Afghanistan documented 581 deaths, including 150 children, between January 1 and March 31 this year. Civilian casualties were mostly caused by air strikes and ground search operations by the security forces.
Taliban this month announced the spring offensive, whereas the security forces intensified their crackdown. This has led to a sharp escalation in the fighting between the two sides.
“Pakistan implores all parties to recognise the importance of the moment and seize it,” Prime Minister Khan said in his statement and recalled that his government had “committed all diplomatic and security capital” for the success of peace initiatives in Afghanistan.
Pakistan had facilitated dialogue between the Taliban and the United States and has been encouraging intra-Afghan dialogue. Refusal by the Afghan Taliban to talk to government representatives has remained the biggest hurdle to the start of the intra-Afghan process. A meeting of the Taliban with a group of Afghan politicians, which was to be held on April 14, was cancelled because the Taliban had reservations over the 250-member delegation that was planning to meet them.
“Pakistan will not be party to any internal conflict in Afghanistan anymore,” Imran emphasised.
The prime minister reminded the warring Afghan factions that the conflict had brought great suffering for both Afghanistan and Pakistan over the last 40 years. “Now, after a long wait, the Afghanistan peace process presents a historic opportunity for peace in the region and Pakistan is fully supporting the process including the next logical step of intra-Afghan dialogue wherein Afghans will themselves decide upon the future of their country,” he maintained.