ISLAMABAD: Pakistan, China and Afghanistan on Tuesday called for a “responsible” withdrawal of United States-led international forces from Afghanistan to avoid the resurgence of militancy in the war-torn country, the Pakistan foreign office said in a statement.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Luo Zhaohui, Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Mirwais Nab and Pakistan's Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood co-chaired the third round of the China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Trilateral Vice Foreign Ministers' Strategic Dialogue, which was held via video link on Tuesday.
“The three sides urged for an orderly, responsible and condition based withdrawal of the foreign troops from Afghanistan to avoid potential terrorist resurgence,” a statement by the Pakistani foreign office, released after the conclusion of the dialogue, said.
China and Pakistan also appreciated the efforts of the Afghanistan government and relevant parties in expediting the exchange of the prisoners with the Afghan Taliban “to pave the way for the start of the Intra-Afghan Negotiations and call for violence reduction and humanitarian ceasefire.”
Last month, Afghanistan’s government and the Taliban said they had agreed that Doha would be the venue for the first meeting in their peace talks, known as the intra-Afghan dialogue -- the first high-level meeting between the two sides after years of fighting.
No date has been announced for the meeting, but it is expected to take place after the two sides settle differences on the release by the Afghan government of 5,000 Taliban prisoners.
The United States signed a troop withdrawal deal with the Taliban in February, which envisaged plans for a withdrawal of foreign forces from the war-torn country in exchange for security guarantees from the insurgent group.
However, US attempts to usher the Taliban towards peace talks with the Afghan government have been mired in setbacks. Violence by Taliban fighters and disagreement over the Taliban’s demand that all 5,000 prisoners be released, have also blocked progress towards resolving the conflict, in which Pakistan is considered a key regional player.
“China and Pakistan will enhance cooperation with the Afghan government in support of the “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned” peace reconciliation process, the launch of Intra-Afghan Negotiations at an early date, the preservation of the gains since 2001,and looked forward to the early restoration of peace and stability in Afghanistan,” the foriegn office statement said.
A day earlier, on July 6, Pakistan participated in a virtual conference on Afghanistan, titled “Strengthening Consensus for Peace,” hosted by the government of Afghanistan. President Dr. Ashraf Ghani, Chairman High Peace Council for National Reconciliation, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, and representatives of various countries and international organisations attended the meeting.
At the conference, Pakistan underlined its hope that the release of prisoners would be completed at the earliest and as per the US-Taliban peace agreement, to pave the way for intra-Afghan peace talks to begin.
“Pakistan stressed that there was a need for the international community to focus on ensuring early start and successful completion of Intra-Afghan Negotiations and not let these be derailed by “spoilers” who did not wish to see return of peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region,” a statement from the foreign office said.