US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad expressed gratitude for Pakistan's efforts in advancing the Afghan peace process, a statement from the US embassy said Thursday.
Pakistan is Afghanistan’s top trading partner and is seen as a key regional player in helping facilitate a February troop withdrawal deal between the United States and the Taliban to begin the process of ending 18 years of war. The agreement was intended to quickly lead to talks between the militant group and the Afghan government but became mired in delays.
Khalilzad, along with US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) Chief Executive Officer Adam Boehler, held meetings with Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, and other officials on June 1.
"Ambassador Khalilzad noted how close the sides are to starting intra-Afghan negotiations and the importance of resolving remaining issues quickly, underscoring the promise peace holds for regional stability and development," the statement read.
Meanwhile, Boehler highlighted the mission of DFC and discussed investment opportunities "to strengthen Pakistan’s economy and contribute to peace and stability in the region" with senior officials, including Advisor to the Prime Minister for Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood.
Afghan peace talks likely to start soon
On Monday, Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan had said that negotiations between the Afghan government and the insurgent Taliban were expected to begin soon but that the release of 5,000 prisoners and a reduction of violence were the final hurdles, reported The News.
Pakistan’s ambassador to Kabul Zahid Nasrullah Khan told a British wire service that he was “cautiously optimistic” and that talks could begin next month, so long as the final issues were overcome. “The two important things are the level of violence — that it should be kept low to have an enabling environment — and to reach that magic figure of 5,000 prisoners (released),” he said.
“The rising violence is a concern for Pakistan as it is for other countries who want to see the US-Taliban agreement implemented in letter and spirit and to reach the first milestone of the (intra-Afghan negotiations),” he said. “We have been persuading the Taliban to show that the violence level remains down; it’s very important.”