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Afghanistan’s chief peace negotiator lands in Pakistan

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KARACHI, Pakistan 

The head of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation arrived in Islamabad on Monday on a three-day visit to discuss the ongoing Afghan peace process with focus on rare direct talks between the Taliban and Kabul government.

Accompanied by a high-level delegation, Abdullah Abdullah will meet Pakistan’s President Arif Alvi, Prime Minister Imran khan, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, chairman of the senate and speaker of the National Assembly, said a statement from Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry.

He will deliver a key-note address at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad and also have interaction with the media.

“The visit will provide an opportunity for wide-ranging exchange of views on the Afghan peace process and strengthening of Pakistan-Afghanistan bilateral relations and people-to-people interaction,” the statement said.

“Pakistan attaches high importance to its fraternal ties with Afghanistan, rooted deep in shared history, faith, culture, values and traditions,” it further said, adding, “Pakistan fully supports all efforts for peace, stability and prosperity of the Afghan people. The visit of Dr. Abdullah Abdullah will contribute to further strengthening amity, brotherhood and close cooperation between the two countries.”

This is Abdullah’s first visit to Pakistan in his capacity as the top Afghan peace negotiator, which comes days after the much-hyped intra-Afghan dialogue started in Doha earlier this month, following the completion of prisoners’ exchange.

Islamabad’s influence over the Taliban is viewed as crucial to court the warring militia.

In December 2018, Pakistan arranged rare direct talks between Washington and the Taliban, which led to a peace deal this February.

Under the agreement, the US committed to withdraw all foreign forces from Afghanistan by July 2021.

In return, the insurgents pledged to prevent terrorist groups from using Afghan soil for attacks, and promised to seek reconciliation with other Afghan groups through a dialogue process.

Islamabad also facilitated the landmark first round of direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in Pakistan in July 2015.

The process, however, broke down after the news of long-time Taliban leader Mullah Omar’s death surfaced, triggering a bitter internal power struggle.

It was further hampered by the killing of Omer’s successor, Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, in a US drone strike on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in 2016.

The US President Donald Trump last year stepped up efforts to resume the long-stalled process, seeking Pakistan’s help to end Washington’s longest war in recent history.

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