Afghan president visits Islamabad to build support for peace process

President Ashraf Ghani sought Pakistan's support for talks with the Taliban

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, left, reviews guard of honour with Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan in Islamabad in June. Pakistan Press Information Department 
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, left, reviews guard of honour with Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan in Islamabad in June. Pakistan Press Information Department 

Afghanistan's president Ashraf Ghani visited Pakistan on Thursday to ask for help bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table, Pakistani officials told Associated Press.

Mr Ghani held his first meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan since his election and discussed the on-going peace process with Foreign Minister Mahmood Qureshi in Islamabad.

After meeting the foreign minister, the Afghan president thanked Islamabad and “praised Pakistan’s role in the peace process," according to a foreign ministry statement. Mr Qureshi said Pakistan would continue to support peace efforts.

Mr Ghani is also scheduled to meet President Arif Alvi before travelling to the eastern city of Lahore to attend a gathering of businessmen.

A series of talks on ending the country's nearly two-decade war has raised hopes of peace, but a sticking point in the negotiations has been the Taliban's refusal to engage with the Afghan government.

Pakistan is seen as key to resolving the conflict. Last week, dozens of Afghan political leaders attended a peace conference in Pakistan to pave the way for further Afghan to Afghan dialogue.

Islamabad has facilitated talks between the US and the Taliban, with Mr Khan meeting US envoy for peace in Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad in January.

The Taliban's refusal to sit down with the Ghani government is the biggest obstacle to peace. The militant group say the government is a puppet of the US-led Nato forces, and refuse to engage with them until the international military presence withdraws.

Mr Ghani, who faces re-election later this year, believes that Islamabad wields influence over the Taliban. There are accusations the countries' porous border provides a safe haven for militants to seek shelter from Afghan and international forces in Pakistan's sovereign territory.

Islamabad says their influence is overstated and has taken measures to secure their border with Afghanistan.

Mr Khan has criticised Islamabad's participation in Washington's so-called "war on terror", but since winning office in July said his government would be "partners in peace," promising his country would do what they can to assist in the peace process.

On Sunday the next round of talks between the Taliban and Mr Khalilzad begin in Qatar, where the insurgents have a political office.

Published: June 27, 2019 04:57 PM

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