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Pak supports peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan: Imran Khan tells US special envoy

Pak supports peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan: Imran Khan tells US special envoy
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Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan told America’s special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad on Wednesday that peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan is in Islamabad’s abiding interest and he will continue to support peace efforts in the war-torn neighbouring country.
Khan held talks with Khalilzad, who arrived here on Tuesday to coordinate closely with the Pakistani leadership on the US efforts to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table to end the 17-year-long war in Afghanistan.

The prime minister “reiterated Pakistan’s abiding interest in achieving peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan through a political settlement,” according to a statement by the PM Office.

“Pakistan wants a political solution to Afghan peace and reconciliation,” he told Khalilzad.

During the meeting, the US special envoy conveyed President Donald Trump’s best wishes.

“The US leadership is looking for a peaceful solution to the Afghan peace process and mutual cooperation between the two sides,” Khalilzad told the premier.

Khalilzad also met Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and reiterated President Trump’s desire to seek Pakistan’s cooperation for peace and stability in Afghanistan, according to a Foreign Office spokesman.

“The FM assured the US side of Pakistan’s steadfast support for a negotiated settlement,” said the spokesman.

“Pakistan will continue to cooperate with sincerity for political settlement in Afghanistan. Long-lasting peace in Afghanistan is in Pakistan’s best interest,” Qureshi tweeted.

Khalilzad also held a meeting with Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua, where officials from diplomatic, security and defense from both sides present at the meeting.

“Peace and political settlement in Afghanistan was discussed,” according to the spokesman.

Pakistan is accused by both US and Afghanistan of supporting the Taliban who have waged a more than 17-year old insurgency.

Pakistan maintains that the Taliban have long shifted to Afghanistan where they control a sizeable area and that it has little control over them.

Khalilzad arrived here a day after Pakistan announced that President Trump has written a letter to Prime Minister Khan, seeking Islamabad’s “assistance and facilitation in achieving a negotiated settlement of the Afghan war”.

Khan told the media on Monday that resolution of conflict in Afghanistan was also in the best interest of Pakistan, which always made serious efforts to bring peace in the neighbouring country.

Khalilzad will also travel to other regional countries including Afghanistan, Russia, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar to seek support for his mission.

Afghan-origin Khalilzad served as a special envoy of President George W Bush following the fall of the Taliban government in 2001. He also served as US ambassador to Afghanistan.

He is seen in Pakistan as a hawk who has often accused Islamabad of supporting Taliban militants.

It’s his second visit to Pakistan following his appointment as special representative and reflects the Trump administration’s intent to support, facilitate, and participate in a peace process in Afghanistan.

After his first trip in October, Pakistan announced that it released senior Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar to help in the efforts of peace in Afghanistan.

Baradar, the former right-hand man of Taliban founder Mullah Omar, was among several senior Taliban leaders freed in recent months, after the Taliban demanded their release in direct talks with Khalilzad on October 12.

It is believed that Mulla Baradar’s release would help persuade Afghan Taliban to lay down arms and negotiate in new peace talks.

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