KABUL: Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said on Monday the Afghan peace process was making "positive headway" after a series of meetings in Kabul, the first leg of a four-nation visit that is part of the Pakistan government’s policy of outreach in the neighborhood.
Qureshi was in Kabul for meetings with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani about bilateral ties and bolstering an Afghan peace process to reach a negotiated settlement to the 17-year-long war. Qureshi then departed for Iran and will also visit China and Russia.
“I’ve had productive meetings with the Afghan leadership this morning," Qureshi tweeted. "The peace process is making positive headway. Next stop is Iran. Regional connectivity and a collective outlook are essential for progress."
He said the region badly needed economic development, which could not happen without joint cooperation, trust and security.
The presidential palace in Kabul said Ghani’s discussions with Querishi revolved around “bilateral ties, Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process and subsequent intra-Afghan talks."
The visit, which is Qureshi's second to Kabul in less than a fortnight, follows last week’s talks between Taliban representatives and US officials in Abu Dhabi in which Pakistani officials and diplomats from the UAE and Saudi Arabia also took part. His previous meeting was part of a trilateral visit which involved China and was aimed at mending ties with Kabul and bring the sparring neighbors closer.
At talks last week, US and Taliban officials reportedly discussed proposals for a six-month ceasefire in Afghanistan and a future withdrawal of foreign troops. The Taliban emphasized the pullout of US troops from Afghanistan as the main condition before the group could start talks with President Ashraf Ghani’s embattled government.
An Afghan government delegation traveled to the city and met US special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad but the Taliban refused to talk directly with officials from the Kabul government, which they consider an illegitimate, foreign-appointed regime.
In a statement issued last Tuesday, the Taliban said the talks had mainly concentrated on the “US occupation”. “Talks revolved around the withdrawal of occupation forces from Afghanistan, ending the oppression being carried out by the United States and her allies."