US envoy on Afghanistan Khalilzad holds talks with Pak Foreign Minister

ISLAMABAD: US special envoy on Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad Friday held talks with Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and discussed efforts to speed up the Afghan peace process by involving the Taliban.

Khalilzad arrived in Islamabad on Thursday from Afghanistan and held delegation level talks with Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua and also met Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal said Khalilzad called on Qureshi. “He briefed Foreign Minister Qureshi on his recent engagements in the region for Afghan peace and reconciliation process,” Faisal said.

“The FM assured Ambassador Khalizad of Pakistan’s support for the peace process,” he tweeted.

Earlier, a statement issued by the Foreign Office on Thursday after Khalizad’s meeting with Janjua said that the two sides agreed on “intra-Afghan dialogue” to end more than 17-year-long Afghan war.

Khalilzad is touring the regional countries ahead of a proposed meeting with the Taliban in Saudi Arabia.

Pakistan’s support is considered vital for moving forward the peace process in Afghanistan due to historic influence of Islamabad over the Taliban.

Pakistan’s recent efforts to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table have been recognised by the US and Afghanistan.

Afghan leader Ashraf Ghani Thursday called Prime Minister Imran Khan and thanked him for the efforts for peace.

Khalilzad has held three rounds of talks with the Afghan Taliban in order to reach a settlement that would allow the US to withdraw its army and end a 17-year-old war America’s longest. It is Khalilzad’s fifth trip to the region.

The US State Department said last week that Khalilzad was visiting India, China, Pakistan and Afghanistan from January 8 to seek the settlement of the Afghan problem.

He has already visited India and met External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on January 10.

The US official was in Beijing this weekend and held talks with senior Chinese officials.

The Afghan peace initiative has been moving at a snail’s pace due to refusal of the Taliban to sit for talks with the Afghan government officials.

Pakistan has been playing a crucial role in the process and last year released senior Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar from imprisonment, who is reportedly in Qatar.

Baradar was deputy to the late Taliban supreme leader Mullah Muhammad Omar. He was arrested from Karachi in a joint Pakistan-US operation after reports that he was independently trying to conclude a deal with Afghan government.

India has been a key stakeholder in the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan. It sent two former diplomats in “non official” capacity to a conference on Afghan peace process in Moscow in November which was attended by a high-level Taliban delegation.

India has been maintaining a policy of not engaging with the Taliban and pressing for an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace initiative to bring peace and stability in the war-ravaged country.

Khalilzad visited Pakistan in October before flying to Doha, Qatar where he reportedly held talks with the Taliban representatives. PTI

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