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Afghan leaders urged to support US-Taliban talks

By Baqir Sajjad Syed 2019-06-23
ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Saturday urged Afghan politicians to seize the upcoming crucial opportunity for peace in talks between the United States and Taliban.

`The renewed push for peace has created a new opportunity and every effort must be made to seize it. We cannot afford to miss this rare opportunity,` Mr Qureshi told a gathering of Afghan leaders in Bhurban organised by a Track-II initiative.

The meeting was attended by over 50 senior Afghan politicians including Gulbadin Hekmatyar, Karim Khalili, Atta Noor Mohammad, Fouzia Kofi, Mohammad Mohagiq, Mohammad Yunus Qanooni, Ismail Khan and key Afghan presidential candidate and former national security adviser Haneef Atmar.

The Pakistani government is hopeful of a breakthrough in US-Taliban talks in Doha, Qatar. The seventh round is expected early next month af ter which the intra-Afghan dialogue process is likely to commence in which the Afghan government is also expected to participate.

The first round of intraAfghan dialogue may take place on July 7 in Doha. The Tahban have sofar refused to talk to the Afghan government until they get a clear timetable for withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan.

Reportedly, the US and Taliban are close to reaching an understanding on counterterrorism commitments by the insurgent group and foreign troop presence. This will pave the way for intra-Afghan dialogue, in which the German government is also playing a major role. It is expected that at some stage intraAfghan dialogue may shift to Germany.

All Afghan stakeholders are now being urged to endorse the intra-Afghan negotiations, during which a timeline and political roadmap for comprehensive peace agreement will be reached.

Mr Qureshi also used the occasion to clarify Pakistan`s position on a number of issues that have gravely concerned Kabul and asked the Afghan leaders to remain alert to detractors who would make all-out efforts to destabilise PakAfghan relationship.

`Let this be absolutely clear: no one in Pakistan subscribes to any notion of so-called `strategic depth`inAfghanistan. We must not let anyone resurrect this dead horse to advance their propagandist aims or seek to sow the seeds of misunderstanding between us and our Afghan brethren.

`For far too long, the vicious circle of mistrust, often fed into by our common enemies, has affected our relationship.

He said Afghan politicians should remain vigilant of forces that wished to create misunderstanding and division between the two.

The blame-game had not helped either of the countries, he maintained, asking them to `move away from this negative paradigm`.

Mr Qureshi urged the leadership of both countries to take practical steps to build mutual trust and confidence.

Karzai stays away Speaking at the conference Hekmatyar said that US-Taliban peace talks were not enough. The dialogue between the Taliban and US he believed was useful but peace was only possible through a substantive intra-Afghan process.

He appealed to Afghans to unanimously call for withdrawal of foreign forces.

A statement issued by Mr Atmar`s Peace and Moderation Team said it was committed to supporting any sincere ef fort aimed at bringing peace to Afghanistan, and therefore, it fully supported the meeting in Pakistan.

`We appreciate and support Pakistan`s role in support of peace and reconciliation and hope this initiative by Pakistan will pave the way for early direct intra-Afghan negotiations,` it noted.

`We also support continued cooperation between the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan in the areas of peace and security and call for greater cooperation between the two countries based on the principle of sovereignty and good neighbourly relations,` it added.

Former Afghan president Hamid Karzai stayed away from the event.

A statement issued from his office said he did not attend the meeting due to limited time for preparation.

It also stated that Mr Karzai would visit Pakistan at some other appropriate opportunity.

Mr Karzai`s relations with Pakistani authorities have been strained since his days in office.