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Pakistan calls for early resumption of Afghan peace process


UNITED NATIONS:Pakistan on Thursday hoped that the US-Taliban talks, which were abruptly suspended over the weekend, would resume soon and open the way towards intra-Afghan negotiations for a peaceful settlement of the conflict.

“We hope the suspension of the peace talks is only a pause and will resume sooner rather than later as the alternative is a surge in violence, which could push Afghanistan into even more turbulent and uncertain phase than has been witnessed so far,” Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Maleeha Lodhi told the UN Security Council, while assuring of Pakistan’s role as a facilitator of the Afghan peace process.

Speaking during a debate on the situation in Afghanistan, she said: “Pakistan has always condemned violence and called for all sides to exercise restraint and to remain committed to the peace process out of its belief that there was no military solution to the Afghan conflict.”

Maleeha stressed that the nine rounds of direct talks between the United States and the Taliban had brightened prospects to put in place the first significant foundation of a settlement.

Earlier this week, US President Donald Trump had called off peace negotiations with the Taliban that his special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad had been carrying on for almost a year, after the Taliban claimed responsibility for killing 12 people, including a US soldier, in an attack in Kabul.

In her speech, the Pakistan envoy said the recent setback should not dampen hopes and the resolve to persist in the endeavour.

“We urge both sides to re-engage, and look forward to an early resumption of talks,” Maleeha added.

“Apart from Afghanistan itself, there is no country that has suffered more than Pakistan from the four decades of war and foreign interventions in Afghanistan.”

“In June,” Maleeha continued, “President Ghani and Prime Minister Imran Khan committed to adopt a forward-looking approach and move away from the distrust of the past.”

“Our efforts in facilitating the Afghan peace process, opening of the Torkham crossing point for commercial traffic on a 24/7 basis, and opening of our air space have given further impetus to our bilateral relations,” she said.

Giving details of the specific projects to the 15-member UN Council, Maleeha explained that Pakistan provided significant assistance to Afghanistan in development aid in the sectors of education, health, reconstruction and infrastructure.

Pakistan has hosted millions of Afghan refugees for four decades, “opening our homes and hearts to our brothers and sisters”.

According to the Pakistani envoy, “We remain committed to their safe, dignified and voluntary repatriation.”