WASHINGTON: The United States appears focused on improving relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan for ending the Afghan war, shows a message US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad released on Monday.
Mr Khalilzad, a US diplomat of Afghan origin, said after a meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul on Monday that the talks also focused on the relations between the two neighbouring countries.
“Discussed building further international consensus for peace,” he wrote in a tweet released after the meeting.
“Also regional requirements and implications for peace including recent positive movement in Afghan-Pakistan relations.”
The two leaders also talked about the opportunities that peace in Afghanistan will provide for regional connectivity and development, he added.
President Ghani is expected to visit Islamabad on June 27 for talks on improving Pak-Afghan relations that are often hampered by mistrust and reciprocal accusations.
US diplomat meets Afghan president in Kabul
Mr Ghani said on June 4 that the visit was agreed on at a meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan last week on the sidelines of an OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) conference in Saudi Arabia.
“I hope the visit will be positive,” Mr Ghani said in his message to mark Eidul Fitr last week. He said he was hopeful that years of mistrust can be replaced by mutual trust and cooperation toward peace.
Pakistan has offered support to US efforts to broker an end to America’s longest-ever war and is also willing to play a role in persuading Taliban to meet Afghan officials. Taliban have so far rejected direct negotiations with Kabul.
Last week, Mr Khalilzad held talks in Islamabad with senior Pakistani officials, including Prime Minister Khan and Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa.
The US diplomat, who is in the region to prepare for yet another meeting with Taliban representatives in Doha, Qatar, said he plans to be in Kabul “for some time” for wide-ranging consultations with Afghan leaders.
“Peace talks are entering a new stage and Afghans must be engaged more than ever,” he wrote.
He said that he also discussed the need for an intra-Afghan dialogue with President Ghani.
“As the Afghan peace process talks continue to progress, we agreed preparation for intra-Afghan negotiations now is essential,” he wrote.
A separate note issued by his office said that during his stay in Kabul, Mr Khalilzad will meet members of the National Unity Government, political leaders, civil society, and women to discuss progress in US efforts to facilitate an inclusive peace process.
His arrival in Kabul followed stops in Islamabad, Berlin and Brussels.
Noting that the peace talks had reached a critical phase, the statement emphasised the need for engagement with more Afghans across the country on “how to achieve a negotiated political settlement that brings a durable peace”. Such consultations, were “of utmost importance”, the statement added.
Mr Khalilzad has also scheduled meetings with youth representatives, students, female business owners and religious leaders, his office said. The US envoy has held several rounds of talks with the militants in Doha. Both sides claim the talks have made progress, but so far there has been no concrete results.
Published in Dawn, June 11th, 2019