ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Thursday said that the Taliban had agreed to a reduction in violence to meet a major US demand for signing of an agreement on troops withdrawal from Afghanistan.

In a statement issued in New York, Mr Qureshi said a major development in Afghan peace process had taken place and that the Taliban would reduce violence.

He said he was happy that Pakistan had fulfilled the responsibility for promoting reconciliation that it had accepted.

The talks between the US and Taliban have been put on hold since the insurgent group’s attack near Kabul on the Bagram airbase last month. The United States has been demanding cessation of hostilities by the Taliban for the signing of the agreement, which the two sides have been negotiating for over a year now.

Mr Qureshi’s statement came ahead of his meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The foreign minister is currently in the United States on the second leg of his trip for peace in the Persian Gulf.

FO welcomes the militant group’s expected ceasefire announcement

He has already visited Tehran and Riyadh to offer Pakistan’s help in defusing tensions in the Gulf in the aftermath of Iranian Commander Gen Qassem Soleimani’s assassination in Iraq.

The Foreign Office welcomed the expected ceasefire announcement by the Taliban.

“All efforts and negotiations whether it is ceasefire or any other aspect of the peace process is welcomed by Pakistan,” FO spokesperson Aisha Farooqi said at the weekly media briefing on Thursday.

A media report has said that Taliban chief Haibatullah Akhund has approved a week-long ceasefire with US forces so that the agreement could be signed.

The Taliban will begin dialogue with other Afghan groups for a political settlement of the dispute once the agreement with the US is signed.

“We hope that the talks would be concluded at the earliest leading the way to Intra-Afghan negotiations,” Ms Farooqi said.

Responding to a question on Mr Qureshi’s mission for peace in the Gulf, the FO spokesperson said: “Pakistan is a partner for peace. So when the issues of war and peace are at hand, you do not wait for invitation, you go forward and contribute. And that is what Pakistan has always done and what Pakistan will always do.”

Published in Dawn, January 17th, 2020