Pakistan willing to help US for Afghan peace talks — Foreign Office

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Zalmay Khalilzad, a special representative appointed by the US for the Afghan peace process, holds talks with Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad on Tuesday. (Photo courtesy: Foreign Office)
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Zalmay Khalilzad, a special representative appointed by the US for the Afghan peace process, center, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad on Tuesday. (Photo courtesy: Foreign Office)
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Zalmay Khalilzad, a special representative appointed by the US for the Afghan peace process, with Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad on Tuesday. (Photo courtesy: Foreign Office)
Updated 04 December 2018
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Pakistan willing to help US for Afghan peace talks — Foreign Office

  • US’ special envoy holds talks with the political and military leadership in Islamabad
  • Analysts stress on the need for a joint strategy to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Foreign Office said on Tuesday that it was ready to extend all possible help to the United States to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table and restore peace in conflict-ridden Afghanistan.

“The United States has finally agreed to initiate a dialogue with the Afghan Taliban which is a positive move,” Dr Mohammad Faisal, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told Arab News.

This comes at a time when Zalmay Khalilzad, the US-appointed special envoy tasked with finding a solution to end the 17-year-old Afghan war, arrived in Islamabad on Tuesday to hold meetings with the country's political and military leadership. 

Khalilzad met with Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua at the Foreign Office on Tuesday where the two sides discussed an ambit of mutual cooperation to restore peace and stability in Afghanistan.  “Pakistan has been pressing the US for the last 10 years to settle the Afghan conflict through dialogue and negotiations with the Taliban,” Dr Faisal said.

“The important thing at this stage is that the US is finally engaging the Afghan Taliban in dialogue,” he said, adding that “the strategies and all other things can be worked out mutually”.

Khalilzad’s visit comes a day after US President Donald Trump wrote a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan, seeking Islamabad’s “assistance and facilitation in achieving a negotiated settlement of the Afghan war”.

Khalilzad will also travel to Afghanistan, Russia, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Belgium, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar in a renewed effort to find a peaceful end to the Afghan war.

“He will meet with Afghan government officials and other interested parties to support and facilitate an inclusive peace process in Afghanistan, empowering the Afghan people to decide their nation’s fate,” the US State Department said in a statement.

Washington has been pushing Islamabad for long to play its role in bringing the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table for a peaceful end to the decades-old conflict. The relations of both the allies, however, soured when President Trump accused Pakistan of providing a “safe haven to the terrorists we hunt” when he posted a series of tweets on January 1.

To ease the tensions and convince Pakistan to play its role in the Afghan peace process, Khalilzad held a series of meetings with the Pakistani leadership in Islamabad in October. The move was part of Washington’s renewed push to arrive at a political solution to the Afghan conflict.

Rahimullah Yousufzai, a security analyst and expert on Afghan affairs, said that Pakistan alone cannot help the US in achieving peace for Afghanistan as its influence over the Taliban has reduced with the passage of time. “There is a need to adopt a more regional approach to convince the Taliban to enter negotiations with the Afghan government,” he told Arab News. 

“China and Iran should also be involved in the negotiations process for a positive result,” he added.

Yousufzai said that no imminent solution of the Afghan conflict was on the cards but if both Pakistan and the US succeed in initiating a meaningful dialogue with the Taliban “this will at least help reduce frequency of bomb blasts and other terror attacks in the region”.

Last week, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced forming a 12-member team which would engage with the Taliban. However, he has yet to receive a positive response from the militants.

Professor Tahir Malik, an academic and an analyst, said that hurdles in the way of a dialogue with the Afghan Taliban can be removed only if “both Pakistan and the US move ahead with a joint strategy”.

“It is heartening to see that the relations of Islamabad and Washington are warming up after years, and hopefully this will help restore peace in Afghanistan,” he told Arab News.


Spain threatens to send national police to Catalonia after protests

Updated 27 min 23 sec ago
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Spain threatens to send national police to Catalonia after protests

MADRID: Spain’s interior minister said he would send national police to Catalonia if local authorities did not do more to stop protests like the one that shut down major highways over the weekend.
Fernando Grande-Marlaska accused the local Catalan police of doing nothing to prevent pro-independence protesters blocking the AP-7 toll road, which runs up Spain’s Mediterranean coast, for more than 15 hours on Saturday.
The involvement of national police would be a contentious issue in the northeastern region which has its own administration and where polls suggest almost half the population wants to split away from Spain.
It would also stir memories of Madrid’s decision to send in a large contingent of national police in September last year after the Catalan government called an illegal independence referendum.
“Serious disruptions of public order and traffic security, such as those seen in the last few days, need to be dealt with by the regional police,” the minister wrote to his regional counterpart in an open letter late on Monday.
“If this does not happen ... the government will order an intervention by the state police,” he added.
Catalonia’s government would respond to the questions raised in the letter, spokeswoman Elsa Artadi said on Tuesday, without saying when or going into further detail. She repeated calls for dialogue between Madrid and Barcelona.
Spain’s previous conservative government took control of the region when the regional administration unilaterally declared independence following the Oct. 1, 2017 referendum.
Many of the Catalan politicians that took part in the declaration are in prison awaiting trial for rebellion or in exile.
Spain’s new Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez — who came to power in June — has said he is open to a referendum on greater autonomy and has promised to lay out detailed plans in parliament on Wednesday.
But Grande-Marlaska said the local authorities had to show they could keep order and prevent a repeat of Saturday’s protests.
“It was observed that there was no intervention (by the regional police) ... a reality that is difficult to deny,” he said in a radio interview on Tuesday morning.