Pakistan assures US of its ‘full support’ for peace talks with Afghan Taliban: Foreign Minister
ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said on Wednesday that Pakistan has assured the United States of its full support for peace talks with Afghan Taliban as this was in line with the policy of the government and best interest of Islamabad.
“I assured them (the US) full support for peace talks with Taliban,” he said while addressing a news conference here after having talks with the US delegation that was led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The Secretary of State arrived in Islamabad Wednesday on a day-long visit. He was accompanied by Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford. They held formal talks with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and his team at Foreign Office; and later called on Prime Minister Imran Khan and military leadership including chief of army staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa at the Prime Minister Secretariat.
This was the first high-level visit from Washington since the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government assumed office in August this year.
“Today we met with Prime Minister Imran Khan and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi to discuss our diplomatic and military to military relationship,” the Secretary of State tweeted shortly after conclusion of his day-long trip.
The foreign minister said that the US delegation expressed its desire that Pakistan should help Washington for peace talks in Afghanistan.
“Afghanistan is our neighboring country, our peace and our future is linked to it,” he said, “we want that violence should come to an end there and people should lay down their arms for their better future.”
Qureshi said that the US has reviewed its policy with respect to Afghanistan and reached a conclusion that “negotiated political settlement” is the solution of the war-ravaged country.
“There was a convergence and alignment of Pakistan and America’s stance on the issue (during the talks,” he said, “Imran Khan has been saying this for years that there is no military solution of Afghanistan’s conflict.”
He said that he got a hint during the talks that the United States has mentally prepared to have direct talks with Taliban in Afghanistan, as well as Washington does not intend to keep its footprint in Afghanistan for a long period.
“And obviously, this is linked to the situation there and ground reality … but this is a big positive hint,” he said, adding that Afghanistan has been an “impediment” in bilateral relations of the United States and Pakistan.
“This is a good start and impasse in the relations has broken,” he said, adding that this shift in the US policy is a result of the State Department’s efforts and will also be followed through with input from all other relevant institutions.
He said the meeting with the US delegation has “reset an environment” to improve the bilateral relationship. “History is evident to the fact that when we (Pakistan and the US) worked together, it helped us both. And they (the US) acknowledge this fact,” he said.
The foreign minister said that he placed this before the US delegation that Pakistan would need “ease and facilitation” from its eastern border – India – to focus on the western border – Afghanistan.
“We should look towards this aspect too that how we can bring improvement,” he said, “repeated violation of ceasefire on the Line of Control (by India) helps no one but affects the innocent people (living near the border).”
The foreign minister said the meeting helped understand concerns of the US and present Pakistan’s viewpoint on important issues. “The future course of action will be chalked out in a next meeting to be held in Washington,” he said, adding that he has accepted invite of Secretary Pompeo to visit Washington and would go there for a meeting during his upcoming visit to the United Nations General Assembly’s session.
Pak-US relations deteriorated to the lowest ebb since President Donald Trump announced South Asia policy last year. The policy envisaged a greater involvement of India – Pakistan’s archrival – in Afghanistan.
Secretary Pompeo’s visit came on the heels of US announcement of cancellation of $300 million in Coalition Support Fund (CSF) to Islamabad due to a lack of “Pakistani decisive actions” in support of the US’ South Asia strategy.
The foreign minister, however, said that he did not take up the issue of the CSF during the talks as “sovereign nations think differently.”
He said that he also clarified to the US that “blame and shame game will serve no purpose and only vitiate the climate.” “I categorically said that our relationship and negotiations should be candid and frank to move forward.”