Better ties to benefit Pakistan as well as Afghanistan, says US envoy Khalilzad

WASHINGTON: Better economic ties between Pakistan and Afghanistan could propel the entire region forward, said US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad while welcoming direct talks between Prime Minister Imran Khan and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

“Pleased to see PM Imran Khan and President Ghani spoke” on Sunday, Ambassador Khalilzad wrote in a tweet.

“Both leaders say they prize the economic dividend peace can bring, especially the potential gains from regional connectivity and integration,” the US diplomat observed. “That’s a common vision that can truly propel the region forward.”

Media reports claim that President Ghani may visit Islamabad after Eid

The two leaders spoke by telephone and resolved to benefit from their geographic location to enhance regional connectivity. They also vowed to realise the true potential for socio-economic development that the strategic location provided to the two countries.

Some media reports claim that President Ghani may visit Islamabad after Eid for further talks on efforts to improve bilateral ties.

The United States has long advocated better relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan, arguing that the two neighbours can defeat terrorism if they cooperate.

The US also urges Pakistan to allow a more liberal use of its territory for promoting trade between Afghanistan and India, which will also benefit Islamabad.

Ambassador Khalilzad’s statement reinforces this message and also indicates his appreciation for the help he has received from Islamabad for moving forward the Afghan peace process.

In a recent statement, the US envoy acknowledged that Pakistan had released a key Taliban leader, Mullah Baradar, at his request to facilitate his talks with the Taliban.

Last week, Mr Khalilzad also appreciated Prime Minister Khan’s stance on Afghanistan, saying that it has the potential to positively transform the region and give Pakistan a leading role.

In a statement released by his office last Thursday, the prime minister underlined Pakistan’s unconditional support to the Afghan peace process and urged the Taliban to call off their spring offensive.

Mr Khalilzad also attached to his tweet a link to Mr Khan’s statement, which points out that the Afghan conflict has brought great suffering for both Afghanistan and Pakistan over the last 40 years.

The US envoy, who leads the US team in peace negotiations with the Taliban, expressed similar views in a recent statement, noting that civilian casualties in Afghanistan indicated that this war “has gone on too long”.

Recently, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan reported 1,773 civilian casualties in Afghanistan in the first quarter of 2019. The UN also reported 582 child casualties, including 150 deaths and 432 injured.

Ambassador Khalilzad reiterated his appeal for peace in his latest tweet as well. “I wish peace and prosperity to all Afghans this Ramadan. Afghans have suffered war’s catastrophic impact for too long,” he wrote.

“I hope all Afghans take this season to reflect, forgive, and renew faith and commitment to end violence and embrace peace.”

The US envoy is currently holding the sixth round of peace talks with Taliban in Doha, Qatar. On Monday, the two sides agreed to pause the talks for a day to mark the beginning of Ramazan.