Diplomacy

Khalilzad seeks side agreement between Afghanistan, Pakistan amid peace talks

Pakistan Forward and AFP

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US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad (centre left) confers with Pakistani military officials in Islamabad September 14. [Pakistani Inter Services Public Relations]

WASHINGTON -- US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad has voiced hope that Kabul can reach a side deal with Islamabad, whose historic support of the Taliban has long tested relations.

The Taliban and Afghan government are engaged in slow-moving peace talks in Doha, Qatar.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chief of Army Staff Gen. Qamer Javed Bajwa have been "helpful" in the diplomacy efforts, Khalilzad said.

"We are seeking an agreement between Afghanistan and Pakistan as an adjunct to an internal peace," he told a University of Chicago forum by video from Doha on Wednesday (October 7).

Both countries would "agree that their territory will not be allowed to be used against the other by extremist groups or groups that would undermine the security of the other", he said.

Pakistan had hailed the February 29 agreement between the United States and the Taliban, in which Washington declared that it would "facilitate discussions" between Kabul and Islamabad.

Economic incentives for Pakistan

Khalilzad, who visited Islamabad last month, said he saw economic incentives for Pakistan, which suffers severe power shortages and could import power from electricity-rich Central Asia if the Afghan government and Taliban reach a deal.

"There are economic reasons that would be transformative for the region should peace in Afghanistan come," he said.

Pakistani officials have welcomed the peace talks, which began September 12 after months of delays.

"Finally, our combined efforts have brought forth the day that the Afghan people have been yearning for," Khan tweeted September 11.

"For its part, Pakistan will continue to remain in full support and solidarity with the Afghan people as they march forward in this consequential journey for peace and development," he said in a separate tweet.

"A peaceful and stable Afghanistan will bring new opportunities for the progress and prosperity of not only Afghanistan but also the region," acting Afghan Foreign Minister Muhammed Hanif Atmar tweeted September 13, hailing Pakistan's role in the process.

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