Pakistan urges US, Taliban to re-engage in talks


–FO reiterates there’s no military to conflict in Afghanistan

ISLAMABAD: Hours after the United States announced suspension of talks with Taliban for the Afghan peace process, Pakistan on Sunday urged both parties to re-engage in talks for lasting peace.

The Foreign Office (FO), in a statement, said, “We have learnt about the cancellation of President Trump’s meeting with the Taliban and Afghan Government representatives in Camp David. Pakistan has always condemned violence and called on all sides for restraint and commitment to pursue the process.”

FO said that Pakistan has been “facilitating the peace and reconciliation process in good faith and as a shared responsibility, and has encouraged all sides to remain engaged with sincerity and patience”.

The statement further said that Pakistan will continue to monitor the developments.

“Pakistan reiterates its principled policy stance that there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan and urges that both sides must re-engage to find negotiated peace from the ongoing political settlement process. Pakistan looks for optimised engagement following earliest resumption of talks,” FO concluded.

Earlier, US President Donald Trump said that he had called off a secret summit with the Taliban and Afghanistan’s leader, abruptly slamming the door on a year of diplomacy to end America’s longest war.

Trump said that the Taliban’s persistent, grisly campaign of violence made them untrustworthy partners.

“Unbeknownst to almost everyone, the major Taliban leaders and, separately, the President of Afghanistan, were going to secretly meet with me at Camp David on Sunday,” Trump said in a tweet.

“Unfortunately, in order to build false leverage, they admitted to an attack in Kabul that killed one of our great great soldiers, and 11 other people. I immediately cancelled the meeting and called off peace negotiations.”

“What kind of people would kill so many in order to seemingly strengthen their bargaining position? They didn’t, they only made it worse!” Trump said.

In response, the Afghan Taliban said the US “will be harmed more than anyone” but left the door open for future negotiations.

“We still […] believe that the American side will come back to this position […] Our fight for the past 18 years should have proven to the Americans that we will not be satisfied until we witness the complete end of the occupation,” the group said in a statement released on Twitter by spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.

The Afghan Taliban also dismissed Trump’s reasoning in their statement, saying it showed “neither experience nor patience”, and accused the US of killing “hundreds of Afghans” in the fighting.

“Americans will be harmed more than any other,” by Trump’s decision, the statement said, adding that the US’ “credibility will be harmed, their anti-peace stance will become more visible to the world, their casualties and financial losses will increase, and the US role in international political interaction will be discredited even further.”

Meanwhile, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s office, in response to Trump’s announcement, said, “The Afghan government, in relation to the peace, appreciates the sincere efforts of its allies and is committed to working together with the United States and other allies to bring a lasting peace.”

“We have always insisted that a real peace can only be achieved if the Taliban stop killing Afghans and accept a ceasefire, and face-to-face talks with the Afghan government,” the statement added.

Trump’s announcement draws a fresh question mark on whether the United States will leave Afghanistan anytime soon.

The decision comes weeks before Afghanistan is set to hold elections, an unwieldy exercise even in more stable times.

Trump had been uncharacteristically reticent about Afghanistan in recent weeks, with all eyes on whether he would approve a final deal.

Washington had hoped that a withdrawal of US troops would lead to negotiations between the Taliban and Kabul on a more permanent peace.