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Khalilzad in Pakistan to fine tune Afghan peace deal

The US chief diplomat spearheading the Afghan peace efforts on Friday held crucial meetings in Islamabad with senior civil and military authorities in order to fine tune the contours of the Afghan peace deal likely to be signed between Washington and Afghan Taliban soon.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special envoy on Afghan reconciliation, flew from Doha on an unscheduled visit to Islamabad. He first held talks with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi at the Foreign Office and later met Chief of the Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

Sources privy to the agenda of Khalilzad’s visit said, the US envoy was here to take the Pakistani authorities into confidence about the imminent peace deal. Pakistan played a key role as it pushed the Taliban to agree on the reduction of violence. However, certain issues have not yet been sorted out and hence Khalilzad made an unannounced visit.

The US is believed to have been pushing the Taliban to immediately start intra-Afghan dialogue once the framework agreement regarding the troop withdrawal is signed. Taliban, however, are reluctant to commit to the dialogue as they seek at least a month to start talking to other Afghan groups, including the Kabul administration.

It is believed that Khalilzad sought Pakistan’s help for the said purpose.

A statement issued by the military’s media wing and foreign office did not divulge specific details. Instead the official readout spoke in general terms.

“During the meeting, matters of mutual interest, including overall regional security situation and ongoing Afghanistan Reconciliation Process were discussed. Mr Khalilzad thanked Pakistan for facilitating the process towards the mutual objective of peace in the region,” said a brief statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).

In a separate statement issued by the Foreign Office, Qureshi termed the resumed US-Taliban engagement in Doha as a “positive development”.

He underlined that steps towards reduction in violence were efforts in the right direction and would help strengthen the momentum in the Afghan peace process.

The foreign minister stressed the need for early conclusion of negotiations and peace deal in the larger interest of the peace process and for preventing spoilers from playing a negative role.

Qureshi emphasised that “Pakistan has played a key role in facilitating the peace process and will continue its efforts for a positive outcome”.

He reiterated that the only solution of the conflict was an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process that would help create a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan.