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Top Pakistani, Afghan diplomats discuss peace process

On Wednesday, Pakistan's foreign minister and his Afghan counterpart discussed the ongoing intra-Afghan peace talks aiming to stabilize the region.

Pakistan’s foreign minister and his Afghan counterpart on Wednesday discussed the ongoing intra-Afghan peace talks aiming to end the 19-year conflict through a negotiated settlement in the war-torn country.

Shah Mahmood Qureshi telephoned Hanif Atmar to “exchange views on matters relating to Afghan peace process, bilateral relations, repatriation of Afghan refugees, and regional connectivity,” said a Pakistan Foreign Ministry statement.

Reiterating Islamabad’s support for “a peaceful, united and stable” Afghanistan, Qureshi underlined Pakistan’s “positive” contribution to the Afghan peace process.

Read more: US, Pakistan and Afghanistan: A Peace Deal that ALMOST happened

He said he hoped the Afghan leadership would seize this historic opportunity through Intra-Afghan negotiations to establish lasting peace in Afghanistan by achieving an inclusive, broad-based, and comprehensive political settlement.

“Pakistan will respect the decisions taken by the Afghan nation about its future through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process,” he maintained.

Emphasizing the need to guard against the role of “spoilers” who do not wish to see return of peace and stability, Qureshi highlighted the importance of a time-bound and well-resourced roadmap for the “safe and dignified” repatriation of Afghan refugees.

He also commiserated over the loss of lives in an unfortunate incident at a stadium in Jalalabad earlier this month where Afghan local authorities were managing visa applicants.

Qureshi also highlighted the steps taken by the Pakistani side to facilitate Afghans wishing to visit Pakistan. “The new visa policy aimed at further easing person-to-person contacts between the two countries,” he said.

In December 2018, Pakistan arranged rare direct talks between Washington and the Taliban, which led to a peace deal this February. Under the agreement, the US committed to withdraw all foreign forces from Afghanistan by July 2021.

Read more: As Afghan peace talks loom, Pakistan appoints new envoy to Afghanistan

In return, the Taliban pledged to prevent terrorist groups from using Afghan soil for attacks, and promised to seek reconciliation with other Afghan groups through a dialogue process. Islamabad also facilitated the landmark first round of direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in Pakistan in July 2015.

The process, however, broke down after the news of long-time Taliban leader Mullah Omar’s death surfaced, triggering a bitter internal power struggle. It was further hampered by the killing of Omer’s successor, Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, in a US drone strike on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in 2016.

Read more: Op-ed: What does the US’ withdrawal from Afghanistan mean for Pakistan?

US President Donald Trump last year stepped up efforts to resume the long-stalled process, seeking Pakistan’s help to end Washington’s longest-ever war. Currently, the Afghan officials and the Taliban are engaged in intra-Afghan talks in Qatar’s capital Doha.

Anadolu with additional input by GVS News Desk