Pakistan ready to back Afghan peace process
KABUL (PAN): A senior Pakistani official on Sunday said Islamabad was willing to help Afghan-managed reconciliation but could not guarantee the success of intra-Afghan peace talks or impose its decisions on the Taliban.
Sartaj Aziz, the special advisor on national security and foreign affairs, was the first member of the new Pakistani government to arrive in Kabul for a daylong visit to mend fences between the neighbours.
He told a joint news conference with Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul he had brought a message of cordiality and goodwill for Afghanistan. “The main purpose of my visit, as some of you may know, is to convey a formal invitation from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to President Karzai to visit Pakistan.”
He said NATO-led troops would be leaving Afghanistan on the completion of security transition and it was also the time for a political transition. “A peaceful, stable and united Afghanistan is in the interest of Pakistan,” he said, calling for a “closer relationship” with Afghanistan.
“(Prime Minister) Sharif, explaining Pakistan’s foreign policy, on Sunday said his country doesn’t want to interfere in the affairs of Afghanistan. He is ready for political support and has asked regional countries not to meddle in Afghanistan’s affairs,” he added.
Aziz reiterated Pakistan’s desire for a breakthrough in the Afghan-led peace process, which he said had not yet commenced in earnest. “We are hopeful of Afghan unity, but we can’t guarantee the success of peace talks.”
Pakistan had influence with the Taliban, but could not control them, the advisor explained, stressing: “Any peace talks must happen among Afghans and must be led by them. Pakistan can’t impose its decisions on Taliban to facilitate the process.”
Islamabad had helped persuade some Taliban factions to discuss peace in the past, and had played a role in helping the movement’s representatives travel to Qatar before the efforts stalled, he recalled.
''In future also, to the extent we are requested, we can play the same role but at the appropriate time and in consultation with other interested parties,'' Aziz continued.
A diplomatic source, familiar with the highs and lows of the reconciliation drive, told Pajhwok Afghan News Aziz would discuss with Foreign Minister Dr. Zalmai Rassoul on how to lure the Taliban to the negotiating table and better coordinate bilateral endeavours to break the deadlock.
“Obviously, he will also underline the need for putting the Doha process back on track, as well as an end to frequent testy exchanges between the neighbours over the Afghan-managed reconciliation effort,” he said.
During his trip, Aziz also met Commerce Minister Anwarul Haq Ahady. “They explored ways of resolving the problems being encountered by Afghan entrepreneurs in Pakistan,” one government official said.
The official, requesting not to be named, said Ahady made a strong pitch for an end to Afghan businessmen’s problems at the Karachi port and redressing the balance permanently.
For his part, Zalmai Rassoul thanked Aziz and the delegation accompanying for visiting Kabul. He said Afghanistan and Pakistan had a shared destiny.
“Prosperity in one country brings prosperity to the other. Challenges, problems, insecurity and instability in one country automatically affect situation in the other,” the minister remarked.
The current Afghan government led by President Hamid Karzai had undertaken all possible efforts to strengthen relations with Pakistan, he said. “No other government has made so many efforts toward this end. Unfortunately, so far these efforts haven’t borne positive results.”
Rassoul said they hoped to open a new chapter of honest cooperation with the newly elected Pakistani government. “There are people who talk about Pakistan’s strategic depth in Afghanistan. In the view of the Afghan government, the best strategic depth that Pakistan can have in Afghanistan is friendship, brotherhood and honest cooperation.”
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