Khalilzad calls on Afghan leaders to start talks with Pakistan on peace issue

Zalmay Khalilzad, US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, has urged Afghan leaders and politicians to start “serious negotiations” with Pakistan in order to resolve the Afghan peace issue, sources said.

A number of Afghan politicians, who have recently met with Khalilzad, stated that Khalilzad has urged Afghanistan to send a high-ranking delegation to negotiate with Pakistan.

Pakistan has played a key role in the Afghan peace process since the beginning of US efforts to find a political settlement for long-term conflict in Afghanistan.

The country has repeatedly been accused of supporting terrorist groups and the Taliban inside Afghanistan. The country, however, denies the claims, stating peace and stability in Afghanistan are beneficial to Pakistan and that the country itself has been a victim of terrorism.

Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, last month stated: “Pakistan has paid a huge price because of the unstable environment in Afghanistan; we have paid a huge human price and we’ve paid a huge economic price that is why we feel a stable peaceful Afghanistan is in Pakistan’s national interest.”

Khalilzad’s appeal to Afghans comes during his visit to the region, which includes Kabul, Qatar and other regional states, and appears to be aimed at pushing all stakeholders to restart serious peace talks.

“It is too late for the US to show decisiveness to force the Taliban to come to the negotiating table. Khalilzad said he will go to Doha and will force the Taliban to hold serious negotiations,” said Abdul Basir Salangi, an Advisor for the High Council for National Reconciliation.

In a meeting with former president Hamid Karzai, the US delegation led by Khalilzad, called for serious negotiations to address issues with Pakistan and suggested they send a high-ranking delegation to Islamabad, sources said.

“Khalilzad has emphasized [the need for] political consensus, convening of a Loya Jirga and resolving issues with Pakistan,” Jafar Mahdawi, head of Hizb-e-Millat-e-Afghanistan said.