US peace envoy visits Pak; calls for urgent political settlement between Taliban and Afghan govt

·3-min read

Islamabad, Jul 19 (PTI) US Special Representative for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, on Monday met top Pakistani leadership and called for an urgent political settlement between Taliban and the Afghan government.

Khalilzad paid a one-day visit to Pakistan and met Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, according to a statement issued by the US embassy here.

“Ambassador Khalilzad emphasised the urgency of a comprehensive political settlement between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban, one that leads to a sustainable peace and preserves Afghanistan’s security, sovereignty, and territorial integrity,” it said.

The statement said continued war in Afghanistan poses a risk to the entire region and holds back its development, while peace, by contrast, will enable regional connectivity and increased trade and development.

“We commit to do our part to make this vision a reality,” it said, adding that “tangible and material support for the Afghanistan peace process is vital for its ultimate success, as are positive long-term relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan.” In a meeting with Khalilzad, Prime Minister Khan said the Afghan conflict is not in the interest of Pakistan, according to an official statement.

Khan said the escalation of conflict and instability in Afghanistan would lead to serious challenges for Pakistan in areas of security and influx of refugees.

'Durable peace in Afghanistan would open avenues for regional economic connectivity,” he said.

Khalilzad arrived in Islamabad as part of a visit to the region. He arrived here from Qatar where the Taliban and Afghan government representatives have held two days of talks that ended late Sunday, with a promise by the warring sides to meet again.

Khalilzad's visit coincided with the latest tension between Pakistan and Afghanistan over the issue of abduction and assault of the daughter of Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan Najibullah Alikhil.

Silsila Alikhil, 26, was abducted, tortured and assaulted on Friday by unknown persons in Islamabad. She was abducted while riding a rented vehicle and was held for several hours before being released. She was found near F-9 Park area of the capital with torture marks on her body.

Pakistan police on Monday said they have found no evidence that the daughter of Afghan ambassador was abducted.

The kidnapping and assault incident has soured the ties between Pakistan and Afghanistan. On Sunday, the diplomatic crisis between the two nations deepened after Kabul announced that it will withdraw its ambassador and other senior staff from Islamabad.

Pakistan also called back its ambassador to Afghanistan for 'consultations' on the alleged abduction and release of the Afghan envoy’s daughter.

Meanwhile, Pakistan on Monday welcomed the ongoing engagement between the two Afghan sides in Doha.

“The joint statement issued at the conclusion of the two-day talks in Doha, is a positive development,” the Foreign Office said.

It said Pakistan believes that there is no military solution to the Afghan conflict and that a negotiated political settlement through Afghan-owned and Afghan-led Process is the only way forward.

Pakistan hopes that the Afghan sides would continue their engagement in future in a meaningful manner, which will help in reduction of violence, weaken the hands of spoilers and pave the way for establishment of lasting peace in Afghanistan, the Foreign Office said. PTI SH SCY SCY

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