Pak-US see ‘historic opportunity’ to end Afghan conflict

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and the United States acknowledged that the ongoing peace talks provided a ‘historic opportunity’ to end the prolonged Afghan conflict.

This came after, US Secretary of State’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells held delegation-level talks at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The two US officials are visiting Islamabad as part of regular consultations on the Afghan peace process, Pakistan-US bilateral relationship and regional security situation.

The talks in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were led by Ambassador Aftab Khokher, Additional Secretary (Americas) from Pakistan’s side.
Senior officials from the ministries of foreign affairs and defence as well as Pakistan’s ambassador to Kabul were also present in the meeting. Ambassador Wells and Ambassador Khalilzad were accompanied by an inter-agency delegation.

An official handout issued by the Foreign Office said the two sides reviewed recent developments regarding the Afghan peace process.
It was underlined that this was a historic opportunity to end the prolonged Afghan conflict for which all Afghan stakeholders as well as Afghanistan’s neighbours had an important role to play.

Pakistan reiterated its support for intra-Afghan dialogue, which is vital to move the process forward.

It was highlighted that the prospective agreement in Afghanistan should contribute towards bringing lasting peace and stability leading to international cooperation and development in Afghanistan.

The Pakistani side also emphasised the need of creating an environment in Afghanistan conducive for early and dignified return of Afghan refugees to their homeland.

The two sides reviewed the state of engagement and cooperation between Pakistan and the United States on a range of bilateral issues — including political, economic and consular matters.

Additional Secretary Khokher emphasised the need to intensify the engagement in the economic and trade cooperation. In this context, early convening of the next round of Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) meeting was emphasised. It was noted that the inter-sessional meeting would be held in Islamabad on 2 May 2019.

The two sides agreed to remain engaged in the context of the Afghan peace process and strengthening of bilateral ties.

Khalilzad also met Foreign Secretary Sohail Mehmood and exchanged views on the ongoing cooperation for political settlement in Afghanistan.

The foreign secretary reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to a peaceful and stable Afghanistan. The two sides agreed to remain closely engaged.

The US special envoy is expected to meet Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and the senior military officials during his stay in Islamabad.