Islamabad: Pakistan’s Foreign Minister on Friday said that “intra-Afghan Dialogue” was a vital component for progress in peace process. He made these remarks in his meeting with the United States Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad who arrived in Islamabad on Friday after a four-day visit to Kabul.
The US envoy tasked with forging a peace deal with the Taliban is visiting Pakistan and Afghanistan after a stalemate hit latest round of talks between the Taliban and US in Doha in first half of March.
In Islamabad, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad called on the Foreign Minister and also held delegation level talks with Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua who briefed him about telephonic conversation between Foreign Minister (FM) Qureshi and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The US envoy was also informed about the mutual interest of Pakistan and US in further progress on Afghanistan peace efforts as both sides noted that they “agreed to remain engaged to pursue the reconciliation process.”
FM Qureshi described the “intra-Afghan dialogue as important part of peace process” and told Khalilzad Pakistan will continue its sincere cooperation for the peace and stability in Afghanistan as it “would directly benefit Pakistan’s own vision for economic and human development.”
Ambassador Khalilzad is also hoping to hold separate talks with top Pakistani civil and military leadership during his brief visit.
The most pressing issues looming over Afghan peace talks include establishment of an interim government, a ceasefire between Taliban and Afghan forces that can lead to release of prisoners, and conducive atmosphere for election in Afghanistan. The momentum for peace talks is growing because Afghan incumbent government’s tenure is set to end in May 2019, building up pressure on all sides.
“The month of April and May are crucial” and if no progress is made it would be most unfortunate for the region, says Rahimullah Yousufzai, Pak-Afghan affairs expert. Talking to Gulf News, Rahimullah Yousufzai said that “the parameters to check any progress in talks could be determined by Taliban’s decision to continue or postpone their spring offensive” which is expected to begin in late April. The real breakthrough and progress for peace, according to him, “can only be achieved when Afghans [both Taliban and government] agree for direct talks.”
Despite US efforts, there has not been much progress as the Taliban have repeatedly refused to hold talks with Afghan President Ashraf Gani’s US-backed administration. Pakistan continues to stress on “intra-Afghan dialogue” to take forward the peace process.
The US envoy’s trip is “part of an overall effort to facilitate a peace process that brings all Afghan parties together in inclusive intra-Afghan negotiations” according to the US Department of State. The visits, according to analysts say, highlight the US government’s efforts are aimed at ending the nearly 18-year war in Afghanistan.