Pakistan, US hoping to build on Khalilzad’s visit


— US envoy postpones visit, will land in Islamabad on Thursday

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and the United States on Tuesday agreed to effectively pursue the Afghan reconciliation process ahead of US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad’s reported visit to Islamabad on April 4, hoping it would provide both sides an opportunity to build on the gains made hitherto.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi asserted that Pakistan was facilitating the US-Taliban peace talks and assuring its support for intra-Afghan dialogue in a telephonic conversation with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Both sides exchanged views on the current situation in the region, agreeing that de-escalation was important for peace and stability in South Asia.

He appreciated the US for its role efforts in diffusing tensions in the region that were flared after India and Pakistan conducted airstrike inside each other’s airspace in the context of Pulwama bombing.

Pakistan’s foreign minister told his US counterpart that ties with Islamabad were important for promoting regional peace and stability.

The FM also briefed Secretary Pompeo about efforts and progress in the implementation of Pakistan’s National Action Plan (NAP), being implemented in the wake of Financial Action Task Force (FATF) review and the International Monetary Fund bailout package.

Qureshi informed Pompeo about the measures taken by Pakistan, including the handing over of the Indian pilot, and urged the US to play its role for the resumption of dialogue between Pakistan and India to find solutions to all outstanding disputes.

Khalilzad, who was supposed to arrive on Tuesday, postponed his visit, and now he will be landing in Islamabad on Thursday, according to a report in local media.

He will meet civil and military leadership of the country to discuss recent updates on the reconciliation process of Afghanistan.

On Monday, he reached Afghanistan seeking a peace deal with the Taliban to end 17 years of war. He headed back to the region for a new round of talks and scheduled to stay till April 10, the State Department said.

The State Department did not confirm he would hold fresh talks with the Taliban but said he would stop in Qatar, the usual location for negotiations with the militants.

Khalilzad’s trip is “part of an overall effort to facilitate a peace process that brings all Afghan parties together in inclusive intra-Afghan negotiations”, the State Department said.

The emphasis on negotiations among Afghans comes as the Taliban refuse to sit down for talks with the internationally recognised government of President Ashraf Ghani, despite US appeals.

Tensions over the issue recently led to Ghani’s national security adviser telling reporters in Washington that Khalilzad had not been transparent and accusing the US envoy — who was born in Afghanistan — of harbouring personal ambitions in his native country.