United States Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad has acknowledged Pakistan’s role as “a very crucial” for the reconciliation process with the Taliban.
Weeks after initiating direct talks with the Taliban, wherein the two agreed on a framework of peace agreement, Trump Administration’s point person termed recent development as a positive change. “We always would like Pakistan, like other countries, to do more, but we appreciate what they have done so far and I have indicated and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the president that we want to have good relations with Pakistan, better relations with Pakistan,” he said in response to a question on the role of Islamabad in his ongoing efforts to bring peace in this war-ravaged country. “What they (Pakistan) do on Afghanistan to facilitate peace and reconciliation, which has been a burden on the relationship, that will be removed,” he added. “Pakistan is an important country with which we want to have better relations,” a private television channel quoted him as saying. “The role that Pakistan has played in terms of its relationship with the Taliban and the Haqqani network has been a burden on this US-Pak relationship. They say they want peace. We welcome that. We want them to, to play a positive role,”said the US diplomat who has had several rounds of talks with the Taliban in Doha.
“Most of the meetings we have had with the Taliban have not been in Pakistan. It has been in other countries. I think the message that I have here is a peace in Afghanistan will help our relations with Pakistan,” he added. “Peace in Afghanistan will help Afghan-Pakistan relations and regional connectivity. Pakistan will be a beneficiary of that. Let’s seize this opportunity, this moment for the region for Afghanistan, especially for the obviously long-suffering people of Afghanistan,”Khalilzad said.
He expressed hope that the Taliban reach a peace agreement with the US before the Afghanistan’s presidential elections slated to be held on July 20. He asserted that these were just a few steps in the direction of peaceful resolution of the conflict in Afghanistan and that they have a long way to go. “It would be better for Afghanistan if we could get a peace agreement before the election,” Khalilzad said. “If there is no progress on the peace track, elections will take place, and we are doing what we can to support the preparations for credible elections” he added.
Despite the long-delayed election schedule, the US envoy stated that negotiations between the US and the Taliban could make significant progress in achieving the deal. ”I understand that peace processes are not a straight line. There could be setbacks,” he noted. “Between now and July, there is sufficient time, I believe, where we could reach an agreement. But at least if we have significant progress, that will have a good impact with regard to the future and including the elections,” said Khalilzad.