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Pakistan’s role critical for Afghan peace, says US envoy

President Donald Trump’s point person for the region on Monday said Pakistan’s support was critical to the success of the US strategy for Afghanistan in a development that suggested that Washington was not seeking divorce with Islamabad despite recent hostile statements.

Two weeks after Trump’s tweet accusing Pakistan of ‘lies and deceit’, he dispatched his key aid to Islamabad indicating the two sides are not giving up the diplomatic option to find a common ground.

Alice Wells, Special Representatives for Pakistan and Afghanistan, was the first high-ranking official to visit Islamabad since relations between Pakistan and the US hit a new low after Trump’s diatribe and suspension of security assistance to punish Islamabad for its alleged inaction against the Haqqani network. 

An official statement described the visit as part of regular engagement between the two countries on bilateral and regional cooperation.

Her visit came on the heels of US Central Command Chief General Joseph Votel telephoned Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa to assure him that the Trump administration was not contemplating any unilateral action inside Pakistan. He also hoped that the current hiccup in ties might be temporary.

Against this backdrop, Ambassador Wells held talks with Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua at the Foreign Office. Ambassador Hale and senior Pakistani Foreign Office officials also attended the meeting.

A Foreign Office statement said, the US special envoy noted the importance of longstanding bilateral relationship between Pakistan and the United States.

Contrary to recent hostile statements from Washington, Wells acknowledged Pakistan’s efforts in eradicating terrorism and conveyed the US desire to work with Pakistan in furthering the shared objectives of stabilising Afghanistan.

She argued that as an immediate neighbour and important country of the region, Pakistan’s support was critical to the success of the US strategy for Afghanistan.

To this end, Ambassador Wells underlined the need for strengthening intelligence cooperation between the two sides to improve coordination in counter-terrorism efforts.

The two sides agreed that all initiatives owned and led by the Afghans for seeking a peaceful solution should be supported by the regional countries. Pakistan’s positive role in several peace initiatives was appreciated.

Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua underscored that the relationship with the United States needed to move forward under an environment of mutual trust and respect.

The US delegation was apprised about recent counterterrorism actions taken by Pakistan’s law-enforcement agencies that contributed towards improving the security situation of Pakistan.

It was mentioned that the comprehensive counterterrorism actions would also contribute towards peace and stability in the entire region.

In the context of the regional situation, the foreign secretary expressed concerns over continued use of the Afghan soil by elements hostile to Pakistan’s stability.

She added that strengthening border management mechanisms between Pakistan and Afghanistan was vital to addressing concerns relating to cross-border movements.

Early repatriation of Afghan refugees was also important to improve relations with Afghanistan, she emphasised. The foreign secretary reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to continue its efforts for promoting peace and stability in the region.

The foreign secretary drew the attention of the US delegation towards recent irresponsible statement by the Indian army chief and escalation in ceasefire violations along the Line of Control and the Working Boundary and condemned Indian mortar attacks on Pakistani posts resulting in the martyrdom of Pakistani soldiers last night.

She asked the US side to advise India to exercise restraint.

Courtesy: The Express Tribune

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