Imran says will urge Trump to restart Afghan peace talks


ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Wednesday that he would urge US President Donald Trump next week to revive Afghanistan peace talks with the Afghan Taliban.

Trump abruptly canceled secret talks with the Taliban at his Camp David retreat that were planned for Sept. 8 and has since said the talks are “dead”.

“It will be a big tragedy if these talks don’t make headway,” the prime minister said at a ceremony at Pakistan’s Torkham border crossing with Afghanistan.

“Peace in Afghanistan would also help bring peace and economic development in the whole region,” he said, adding the opening of the terminal would help push bilateral trade with the neighbouring country and create job opportunities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The prime minister said since peace and peaceful coexistence were part of his party’s manifesto, his government tried to have good relations with the neighbours, including Afghanistan, and engaged President Ashraf Ghani for confidence-building.

Imran said he would meet Trump in New York on Monday, and would emphasise that there had been “destruction and chaos in Afghanistan for the last 40 years”.

“We will put our best (effort) that these talks are resumed again,” he said.

He said Pakistan had directed Taliban leaders to participate in earlier peace talks in Qatar and only discovered too late that talks had broken down. He said his next role would have been to convince the Taliban to open talks with the Afghan government.

The premier is scheduled to address the United Nations General Assembly while in New York.

The PM also said there was “no chance of talks” with India about its clampdown on the disputed territory of Kashmir until it lifted a curfew for people there.

Imran Khan warned that those “intending to cross the Line of Control (LoC) in an “attempt to wage a Jihad in Kashmir”, saying it would be an act of “extreme enmity towards the Kashmiris”.

“Anyone who thinks that he will cross the border to join the Kashmiris is a big enemy of them and Pakistan,” he said.

Any such move on the part of individuals, he said, would help India exploit the situation, which would term it cross-border infiltration.

“Don’t give India an excuse to cover its human right violations in Kashmir. This can make life more difficult for the Kashmiris, who are already suffering at the hands of the Indian troops,” he said.

The prime minister categorically rejected any concession to the jailed political leaders, namely Nawaz Sharif, Asif Ali Zardari, who had plundered the national wealth, saying holding them accountable “was a must to put the country back on right track”.