WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discussed Pakistan’s role in promoting peace in Afghanistan with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Thursday as a Loya Jirga met in Kabul to push forward the Afghan peace process.
“Productive call with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi today about continued cooperation on Afghan peace and the importance of supporting regional stability,” Secretary Pompeo said in a tweet released after the call. “I look forward to advancing our shared goals and increasing partnership.”
In a separate statement issued in Washington, his office said that the two discussed a range of issues, including “the importance of US-Pakistan cooperation on the Afghan peace process and the importance of efforts to support regional stability”.
In another statement, Pompeo urged the attendees of the Loya Jirga to take advantage of this historic opportunity for peace as it would benefit all Afghans and would contribute to regional stability and global security.
The top US diplomat welcomed the move to expeditiously release the remaining Taliban prisoners, which he said was the last obstacle to begin the intra-Afghan negotiations.
The grand assembly of Afghan elders began its proceedings in Kabul earlier Thursday to consider an agenda that includes releasing final 400 Taliban prisoners and opening peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani opened the Jirga.
In Washington, Pompeo noted that after 40 years of war, bloodshed and destruction, the parties were ready to embark on a political process to reach a negotiated settlement.
“We acknowledge that the release of these prisoners is unpopular. But this difficult action will lead to an important result long sought by Afghans and Afghanistan’s friends,” he said. It would lead to “reduction of violence and direct talks resulting in a peace agreement and an end to the war,” he added.
Pompeo said that the Trump administration remained committed to a partnership with Afghanistan and would continue
to back a sovereign, unified and democratic Afghanistan that was at peace with itself and its neighbours.
“At the same time, we are committed to reducing the burden on the US taxpayer and the risk to the US troops,” he said, adding that even after a military pullout, the US would continue to provide substantial security assistance to Afghanistan. Pompeo said that the US would also support projects that seek to connect Central Asia with South Asia through Afghanistan.
“Promoting joint infrastructure projects is a key element of improved connectivity,” he said. “We are prepared to support these projects through such US agencies as the Development Finance Corporation (DFC), which is also considering investment in agriculture and extractive industries, among other sectors.”
In Islamabad, the Foreign Office quoted Mr Qureshi as stressing the importance of the Pakistan-US relationship. He said the leadership of both countries was committed to further strengthen it. He said Pakistan would be a partner for peace with the US.
The foreign minister apprised Secretary Pompeo of India’s continuing regressive policies in India-held Kashmir manifested with massive violation of basic human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The foreign minister thanked Pompeo for the US participation in the debate in the UN Security Council on Aug 5 on the completion of one year of India’s unilateral and illegal actions. He said the UN Security Council’s deliberations, once again, reaffirmed the disputed status of Jammu and Kashmir.
Published in Dawn, August 8th, 2020