ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has been invited to attend the US-Taliban peace deal signing ceremony scheduled to take place in Doha on Feb 29.

Qatar’s Ambassador to Pakistan Saqr bin Mubarak al Mansouri called on Mr Qureshi to hand over a special invitation from Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Qatar Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al Thani.

The ambassador remarked that Qatar looked forward to receiving Pakistan’s foreign minister at the signing ceremony.

Mr Qureshi appreciated the invitation and stated that he looked forward to the US-Taliban peace deal signing ceremony.

He expressed the hope that the signing of the peace deal would pave the way for the next step of intra-Afghan negotiations and underlined the importance of Afghan parties seizing this historic opportunity to work out a comprehensive and inclusive political settlement.

The international community’s role would also be crucial for the establishment of a sustainable peace in Afghanistan, he emphasised.

After months of on-again, off-again talks, the US and Taliban last week agreed to curtail attacks across Afghanistan in a deal that would extricate the US from the Afghan war spanning over two decades.

Washington plans to sign the peace deal with the Taliban on Feb 29 following the successful implementation of a countrywide reduction in violence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Friday.

Once the agreement is signed on Feb 29, Mr Pompeo said, “Intra-Afghan negotiations will start soon thereafter, and will build on this fundamental step to deliver a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire and the future political roadmap for Afghanistan.”

Foreign Minister Qureshi said on Saturday that the Afghan peace treaty would be signed in the presence of Pakistan because it was quite impossible to come through without Pakistan’s participation in the final agreement.

Talking to reporters, he said efforts for the success of the Afghan peace process were a Herculean task. Pakistan, he said, was making efforts to constitute an extensive delegation after Feb 29 to promote intra-Afghan dialogue. “It was not an easy task and Pakistan’s honest efforts made the process finally successful and result-oriented,” he added.

He said Pakistan made the world realise that Afghan peace was only possible through peace talks and not through war. “Pakistan convinced the world to make efforts for a political solution to the Afghan problem through dialogue. It was hard to convince Taliban about the peace process, but Pakistan made them join the process,” he added.

Mr Qureshi said Pakistan played a key role in resumption of the peace process, which had been suspended since US President Donald Trump tweeted about suspension of Afghan peace process after killings in Afghanistan. Pakistan made positive efforts for early resumption of dialogue, he added.

Published in Dawn, February 26th, 2020