Qureshi assures Khalilzad of Pakistan’s cooperation in fostering Afghan peace


–Pakistani FM and US diplomat agree to ‘continue cooperation’ on Afghan reconciliation process


ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Tuesday assured US diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad that Pakistan will continue to play its role in finding a political solution to the Afghan issue.

Khalilzad — Washington’s newly named point man tasked with finding a peaceful end to Afghanistan’s 17-year war — arrived in Islamabad to seek the help of the new PTI-led government in bringing the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table.

During the meeting with the US diplomat, Foreign Minister Qureshi said Pakistan welcomes the US efforts for establishing peace in Afghanistan.

“Pakistan will continue playing its role to find a political solution to the Afghan issue,” Qureshi told Khalilzad .

Both the leaders agreed to continue cooperation on Afghan reconciliation process.

Earlier in the day, delegation level talks were held between the Pakistani and the US officials at the Foreign Office. The Pakistani side was led by Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua and the US side by Khalilzad.

The delegations from both sides comprised security, defence and diplomatic officials.

Khalilzad arrived in Pakistan on a tour of the region that will also include Middle Eastern stops in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The trip was announced in a US Embassy statement Tuesday.

The State Department had earlier announced that Khalilzad’s mission is to coordinate and lead US efforts to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table. He began his tour October 4.

His mission comes against the backdrop of a Taliban statement issued Monday condemning parliamentary elections later this month and threatening more attacks on Afghan security forces.

Khalilzad and Qureshi had earlier met in New York where the latter had told the United States’ new adviser on Kabul that Pakistan believes peace in Afghanistan is directly and positively related to long-lasting stability in Islamabad.

Qureshi had also reiterated Pakistan’s pledge for supporting peace in Afghanistan, to which Khalilzad responded by saying he, too, wishes to work with Islamabad for the joint goal of stability.

Khalilzad, who was also born in Afghanistan, first served in Kabul as a special envoy of President George W Bush following the 2001 ouster of the Taliban and then as Washington’s ambassador to Afghanistan.

But, Khalilzad has a prickly relationship with Pakistan, having often accused Islamabad of fomenting violence in Afghanistan by supporting the Taliban.

Foreign Minister Qureshi on Wednesday had urged the Trump administration’s new envoy to be more sensitive to Pakistani opinion than he has been as a private citizen.

“He’s been given a new role, and I hope, I would urge him to be more sensitive to opinion in Pakistan,” Qureshi had told the US Institute of Peace, a Washington think tank.

Qureshi had pointed out that there had been a negative reaction in the Pakistani press to the appointment because Khalilzad “has made statements in the past which have not been, to be put it mildly, very friendly to Pakistan”.

Washington and Kabul have both repeatedly accused Pakistan of providing safe havens for Taliban insurgents, a claim Islamabad has denied and countered with charges that its own insurgents have found sanctuary in Afghanistan.

Both neighbouring countries have been brutally targeted by militants.