ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has reaffirmed Islamabad’s “steadfast support” of ongoing peace talks between the Afghan Taliban and the Kabul government.
The talks are looking to end almost two decades of civil war and coincide with the chairman of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah’s arrival in Islamabad on a three-day visit.
Abdullah Abdullah has described his visit as a “unique opportunity” to push forward the peace process.
Afghan and Taliban negotiators have been in Doha since Sept. 12 hoping to agree on a ceasefire and power-sharing deal. Pakistan is considered a key player in facilitating the talks.
“Reaffirming Pakistan’s steadfast support to the peace process, Foreign Minister Qureshi emphasized that Pakistan had always maintained there is no military solution to the Afghan conflict and encouraged all parties to reach a political solution through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process,” the foreign office said in a statement.
“The FM noted that it was now up to the Afghan leadership to seize this historic opportunity to bring an end to the decade-long conflict and secure an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement.
“Foreign Minister Qureshi further underlined that there was a need to guard against the detrimental role of ‘spoilers,’ both within and outside Afghanistan, who do not wish to see return of peace in the region,” the statement added.
In a tweet on Monday evening, Abdullah said: “As always, I had a constructive meeting with the foreign minister of Pakistan. We discussed the peace process, the intra-Afghan talks in Doha and strengthening bilateral relations. I would like to thank Qureshi for his warm welcome and hospitality.”
In a series of tweets on Monday morning, Abdullah added that the visit would “provide a unique opportunity for the two sides to exchange views on Afghanistan peace talks in Doha and bilateral relations.
“I hope this visit will open a new chapter of mutual cooperation at all levels, especially on achieving a lasting and dignified peace in Afghanistan,” he said.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi welcomed Abdullah at the ministry of foreign affairs on Monday morning and said the Afghan peace process was of “paramount importance” for both countries.
“Its success ensures socio-economic prosperity for all,” Qureshi said in a tweet. “Abdullah’s visit further strengthens the amity & fraternity between our countries.”
Mohammad Umer Daudzai, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s special envoy for Pakistan said: “This is an important visit. Pakistan can do a lot in facilitation of the peace talks.”
He added: “Pakistan helped the US in the process, and the Taliban and the US signed the agreement. There are indications that Pakistan wants to help in the peace process.”
A spokesman for Abdullah said the main goal of the trip was to “seek regional cooperation for the strengthening of the peace process, bilateral relations, regional consensus and requesting cooperation and assistance to bear fruit for peace and cease aid for terroristic groups.”
Abdullah’s schedule on Monday includes a meeting with Qureshi, National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaisar and a keynote address at the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad, a statement by Pakistan’s foreign ministry said.
The Afghan leader will also meet with Pakistan’s religious leaders to seek their support for the peace process, Abdul Rahim Qatra, Charge d’affaires of the Afghan embassy in Islamabad, told Arab News on Monday.
“It is widely believed in Afghanistan that Pakistani religious leaders could play an important role in the peace process,” Qatra said. “Abdullah will seek their support.”