It’s Time For Pakistan To Get On Board With Peace Process: US

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WASHINGTON — Pakistan must take on a substantive role in peace talks with the Taliban if the war in neigh­bouring Afghanistan is to be ended, US Defence Secre­tary Jim Mattis said.

In a strong message to Pakistan, Mattis has said it is time for everyone to support the efforts of the UN, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and all those who are trying to maintain peace in South Asia.

Pakistan must take on a substantive role in peace talks with the Taliban if the war in neighbouring Afghanistan is to be ended, he said.

Mr. Mattis was respond­ing to a question from report­ers about the letter written by the President Donald Trump to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, seeking his sup­port in the peace process in Afghanistan. In his letter, Mr. Trump has made it clear that Pakistan’s full support over the issue “is fundamental” to building an enduring US-Pak­istan partnership.

“We’re looking for every responsible nation to support peace in the sub-continent and across this war in Af­ghanistan that’s gone on now for 40 years,” he told report­ers at the Pentagon on Mon­day as he welcomed Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman for talks.

“It’s time for everyone to get on board, support the United Nations; support Prime Minister Modi’s, [Afghan] Pres­ident [Ashraf] Ghani and all those who are trying to main­tain peace and make for a better world here,” Mattis said.

“We are on that track. It is diplomatically led as it should be, and we’ll do our best to protect the Afghan people,” he added.

 Pakistan assures US of support in Afghan endgame

Pakistan on Tuesday assured all-out sup­port to the US for a negoti­ated settlement of the Afghan conflict. The assurance was given by Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs Shah Mehm­ood Qureshi to US Special Envoy for Afghanistan recon­ciliation Zalmay Khalilzad.

Washington’s special en­voy, tasked with finding a ne­gotiated end to Afghanistan’s bloody 17-year-old war, will hold talks with Pakistani offi­cials at the Foreign Office on the regional situation and Af­ghan reconciliation process.

Khalilzad reiterated Presi­dent Trump’s desire to seek co­operation of Pakistan for peace and stability in Afghanistan, Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal said in a tweet on social media.

“Peace in Afghanistan is in the best interest of Pakistan,” Qureshi told the US envoy and assured continued support of the country to seek an early solution to the conflict.

Dr Faisal further tweet­ed that during his visit to Islamabad, the US special representative also held a meeting with Foreign Sec­retary Tehmina Janjua and discussed issues pertaining to peace and political settle­ment in Afghanistan.

Officials from both sides were also present dur­ing the meeting.

Meanwhile, a foreign news agency reported that some members from the Af­ghan Taliban’s political of­fice in Qatar were also in the federal capital.

But the visit by the Tali­ban leaders, which included a former Taliban ambassador and a former governor who is also on a United Nations sanctions list, is “private”, the official said on condition of anonymity.

The Taliban official said, the group’s Qatar office sent Shaha-ud-din Dilawar, a former ambassador to Sau­di Arabia; Zia-ur-Rahman Madani, former governor of Logar province who is on the UN sanctions list for provid­ing funding for the Taliban; Suhail Shaheen, a former diplomat and Sala Hanafi.

There was no indication who the four might meet or how long they would stay in Pakistan but it was expected their visit would be a pre­lude to further discussions in Qatar when Khalilzad visits later this month.

Since his appointment in September, US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has accel­erated efforts to find an Af­ghan peace pact that would allow for the eventual with­drawal of the United States from its longest war, which has already cost Washing­ton nearly $1 trillion

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