ISLAMABAD – Prime Minister Imran Khan said Monday that durable peace in Afghanistan would open avenues for regional economic connectivity.
Talking to U.S. Special Envoy for Afghan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad in Islamabad, he said the escalation of conflict and instability in Afghanistan is not in Pakistan’s interest and it would lead to serious challenges for Islamabad regarding security and influx of refugees. He highlighted Pakistan’s constructive efforts for facilitating peace efforts for achieving an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement to end over four decades long conflict in Afghanistan.
He recalled that he has consistently emphasised that there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan. He said imposition of a government by force will not lead to the resolution of the conflict and that only a negotiated settlement will bring lasting peace and stability to Afghanistan.
US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad visited Islamabad on Monday and discussed the Afghan peace process with Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
Ambassador Khalilzad emphasised the urgency of a comprehensive political settlement between Afghanistan and the Taliban, one that leads to a sustainable peace and preserves Afghanistan’s security, sovereignty, and territorial integrity, says a press statement issued by the US embassy.
“Continued war in Afghanistan poses a risk to the entire region and holds back its development. Peace, by contrast, will enable regional connectivity and increased trade and development,” he said.
The envoy added: “We commit to do our part to make this vision a reality. Tangible and material support for the Afghanistan peace process is vital for its ultimate success, as are positive long-term relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
Khalilzad’s visit came just hours after Afghanistan withdrew its ambassador from Pakistan after the diplomat’s daughter was allegedly abducted.
Reaffirming Pakistan’s consistent support to a peaceful, stable and united Afghanistan, the Prime Minister underlined that a secure and safe Western border was in Pakistan’s own best interest and Pakistan would like to remain closely engaged with the U.S. and other relevant countries for peace efforts.
He emphasized the need for all Afghan sides to show flexibility and engage meaningfully with each other.
Imran Khan said that it is important for Afghanistan’s neighbours and regional countries to constructively work together for a lasting political settlement in Afghanistan.
The exchange of views covered the prevailing situation in Afghanistan and the need for expediting the Afghan peace process. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad is on a one-day visit to Islamabad as part of a visit to the region.
Pakistan hosts nearly 2 million Afghans, refugees from four decades of war in their homeland, and many in Afghanistan have grown up as refugees in Pakistan before returning.
Khalilzad arrived in Islamabad from Qatar where the Taliban and Afghan government representatives had held two days of talks that ended late on July 18, with a promise by the warring sides to meet again.
It was the highest level of talks so far, aimed at jumpstarting a peace process that has stagnated for months while fighting inside Afghanistan soared as the US and NATO complete their troop withdrawal.
The delegations from the Afghan government and the Taliban said in a joint statement that they will meet again and plan to expedite peace negotiations after two days of inconclusive talks in Doha.
The negotiators from the rival sides, who have been in Doha, said “the two sides committed to continue negotiations at a high level until a settlement is reached.”
For months, the two sides have been meeting intermittently in the Qatari capital, but have achieved little if any notable success. Senior representatives of the Kabul government, including the head of the High Council for National Reconciliation, Abdullah Abdullah, flew in for two days of intensive talks as US forces are about to complete their troops’ pullout.
Pakistan yesterday welcomed the joint statement issued at the conclusion of Intra-Afghan Negotiations in Doha. “Pakistan welcomes the ongoing engagement between the two Afghan sides in Doha. The joint statement issued at the conclusion of the two-day talks in Doha, is a positive development,” said a foriegn ministry statement.
It added: “Pakistan believes that there is no military solution to the Afghan conflict and that a negotiated political settlement through Afghan-owned and Afghan-led Process is the only way forward.”
Pakistan, it said, “hopes that the Afghan sides would continue their engagement in future in a meaningful manner. This will help in reduction of violence, weaken the hands of spoilers and pave the way for establishment of lasting peace in Afghanistan.”
Despite diplomatic efforts by Pakistan to pacify the Kabul government on the issue of alleged kidnapping of the daughter of Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan, bilateral ties continue to remain tense.
The Kabul government is yet to review its decision of recalling its ambassador from Islamabad despite assurance given by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi to his Afghan counterpart Hanif Atmar on phone.
Diplomatic sources told The Nation that final authority to review the decision of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani who would hold an important meeting with his Foreign Minister and NSA tomorrow.
On the other hand, Pakistan has also recalled its ambassador from Kabul for consultations over the diplomatic impasse between the two countries.
Pakistan Ambassador to Afghanistan Mansoor Ahmed Khan who reached Islamabad the other day held series of meetings in the Foreign Ministry on the issue as well as security and political situation in Afghanistan.
The Pakistani ambassador will likely to stay in Islamabad for a week and is also expected to meet other government ministers and officials to whom he would brief about the latest security situation in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi also chaired a meeting in the foreign ministry on the issue of alleged abduction of the daughter of Afghan ambassador and made it clear that allout efforts would be made to reach the conclusion of the issue.
The diplomatic sources say the Afghan embassy is not cooperating to the government of Pakistan for information which is required to push up the investigations.
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