–PM Imran reveals Islamabad has arranged direct talks between US and Taliban leaders on December 17
–Says talks arranged after US stopped asking Pakistan to ‘do more’ and agreed to negotiated settlement in Afghanistan
–FM Qureshi to brief China and Afghanistan on reconciliation efforts during one-day trip to Kabul
PESHAWAR: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday revealed that Pakistan has arranged direct talks between the United States and Afghan Taliban on December 17, ahead of the second round of Pakistan-China-Afghanistan trilateral foreign ministers’ meeting scheduled to be held in Kabul on Saturday to discuss the reconciliation process.
“The same US that had been asking us to ‘do more’ is now asking Pakistan to facilitate its talks with the Afghan Taliban,” PM Imran said while addressing a ceremony to mark the 100-day ceremony of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government.
“When I used to say this matter cannot be resolved without dialogue, [they] would term me ‘Taliban Khan’,” said the PM, revealing that Pakistan had arranged talks between the US and Afghan Taliban on Dec 17.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi will fly to Kabul on a one-day visit to attend the talks pertaining to the Afghan reconciliation process. He is also scheduled to meet Afghan President Ashraf Ghani during the visit.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani will lead their respective delegations.
IMRAN ACTS ON TRUMP’S LETTER :
PM Imran’s announcement comes days after US President Donald Trump made a personal appeal to him to help end the war in Afghanistan.
Trump sent Imran a personal letter asking for his help in pushing the Taliban into peace talks.
The letter arrived as Zalmay Khalilzad, the Trump administration envoy overseeing talks with the Taliban, embarked on an 18-day trip to Pakistan, Afghanistan and six other countries in a bid to build consensus for regional peace talks.
The White House National Security Council said Trump had asked PM Imran in the letter to lend his “full support” to the deepening US efforts to launch such talks.
“In the letter, the president recognises that Pakistan has the ability to deny the Taliban sanctuary on its territory,” said a National Security Council spokesman.“The letter also makes clear that Pakistan’s assistance with the Afghan peace process is fundamental to building an enduring US-Pakistan partnership.”
Washington is in fragile dialogue with the Afghan Taliban, hoping to finish the 17-year war. Washington and Kabul believe much of the Taliban’s leadership is based in Pakistan, giving Islamabad leverage over the insurgent movement.
Islamabad, which was the chief patron of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan before 2001, acknowledges that it has some influence over the militant group, but denies providing a sanctuary in Pakistan.
Pakistan’s Foreign Office said in a statement that Trump had sought Pakistan’s support in forging a negotiated settlement to the Afghan conflict.
“Since Pakistan has always advocated a political settlement to end war in Afghanistan, US decision is welcomed. Pakistan reiterates its commitment to play a facilitation role in good faith,” the FO said.
The letter came just days after an ill-tempered Twitter exchange between Trump and PM Imran.
In mid-November, Trump said on Twitter that “We no longer pay Pakistan the $Billions because they would take our money and do nothing for us.”
PM Imran responded with a tweet that said: “Instead of making Pakistan a scapegoat for their failures, the US should do a serious assessment of why, despite 140000 NATO troops plus 250,000 Afghan troops & reportedly $1 trillion spent on war in Afghanistan, the Taliban today are stronger than before.”
US officials have held meetings with the Taliban’s political wing in the Gulf nation of Qatar in recent months. So far the Taliban have refused to meet the Afghan government. The Taliban also say that they aren’t willing to accept the continuing presence of US soldiers after a deal, a condition hard for Washington to accept as that would leave Afghanistan at the mercy of the group.