Pakistan to attend 4-nation Afghan talks in Moscow

Web Desk – October 23, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will join senior officials of Russia, China and the United States in Moscow this week as part of a renewed push to revive Afghan peace process to end the 18-year-long conflict, the Foreign Office announced on Wednesday.

At a weekly news briefing, Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal said the focus of the four-party talks would be on the stalled Afghan peace process. US chief negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad will also attend the talks scheduled for Friday in Moscow.

Initially, China, Russia and the US were part of the group but later Pakistan was invited for the consultations. Pakistan had participated in the first round of talks, which were held in Beijing in July this year.

“The next round is being held in Moscow at an opportune moment, as it would provide an important opportunity to review the currently stalled peace process. Pakistan side will be represented by Additional Secretary (Afghanistan & West Asia) in the meeting,” Faisal told reporters.

“Pakistan has been a part of all efforts and processes to discuss and facilitate peace and reconciliation efforts in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s role is particularly noteworthy in crystalising international convergence for a peaceful solution in Afghanistan,” he added.

Last month US President Donald Trump called off peace talks with the Taliban citing insurgent group’s continued attacks targeting the American forces. Washington has since been pushing Taliban to agree on a ceasefire.

Islamabad is thought to have also making efforts to convince the insurgent group to reduce the level of violence. Faisal said that Pakistan would continue its effort, through wholehearted support as its part of shared responsibility, for making the international peace effort successful in Afghanistan.

While talks between the US and Taliban remain suspended, China is set to host an intra-Afghan dialogue to be attended by Taliban representatives and Afghan officials. When asked whether Pakistan played any part in the upcoming meeting in China, Fasial said he had no update on it. However, officials privately confirmed that Pakistan had been closely working with China to put the Afghan peace process back on track.

Kartarpur accord

The spokesperson said Pakistan and India would sign the Kartarpur Corridor agreement on Thursday (today). The signing ceremony is scheduled to take place at the Kartarpur border crossing.

Faisal said Indian pilgrims would be allowed to visit the Shrine of Baba Guru Nanak from morning til evening. He added each pilgrim would be charged $20 service fee. India opposed the service fee initially but decided to go ahead with the signing of the agreement.

The Kartarpur Corridor, which will give visa free access not only to Sikhs but also the people of other faiths from India to visit the last resting place of Guru Nanak, is set to be formally inaugurated on November 9. Responding to a question, the spokesperson said details were being worked out as to who would be invited from India on the opening ceremony.

The border crossing is being opened despite current tensions between Pakistan and India over the Kashmir dispute. Only a few days ago, there were intense exchange of fire between Pakistan and India forces along the Line of Control, causing casualties on both sides. The India army chief claimed that New Delhi had targeted the alleged “terror launch pads” on the Pakistani side.

Islamabad strongly rebutted the Indian claim and on Tuesday took heads of diplomatic mission as well as international media to the LoC in order to debunk the Indian claims. In an unprecedented move, Pakistan even invited Indian envoy for a visit to the areas, where the Indian army claimed “terror launch pads” were operating. But none of the Indian diplomats turned up nor shared any locations of alleged terrorist camps.

“We wanted that the India should have visited the area, which their army chief alleged, so that this tendency of allegations should be stopped,” Faisal said. “The real issue is to resolve the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, as per the resolutions of UNSC and the will of the Kashmiri people. Until and unless this issue is resolved, peace and stability will remain elusive in South Asia,” he stressed.

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