Pakistan says its foreign minister is expected to travel Wednesday to neighboring Afghanistan to discuss the war against terrorism and political reconciliation efforts aimed at ending the Afghan armed conflict. The visit comes amid reports of fresh contacts between Taliban insurgents and U.S. officials.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar will hold talks with her Afghan counterpart Zalmai Rassoul and is scheduled to make a “courtesy call” on President Hamid Karzai.
Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman Janan Mosazai gave details of the visit while speaking to reporters Sunday in Kabul.
“We hope that this will mark a new phase in relations of the cooperation between our two neighboring and brotherly countries," he said. "We hope the visit will be an opportunity for Afghanistan and Pakistan to focus on issues that are truly important to our governments and to our people; the fight against terrorism and Pakistan’s essential support for the success of the Afghan peace process.”
The Pakistani foreign minister’s visit to Kabul comes amid fresh reports of contacts between the Afghan Taliban and American officials in the Gulf state of Qatar.
The Taliban disclosed early this month that its representatives have had initial contacts with U.S officials as part of reconciliation efforts in Afghanistan. Moreover, the insurgents also said they are opening a Taliban political office in Qatar to further the peace process.
Pakistani officials have declined to directly comment on their country’s role in contacts between the Taliban and U.S negotiators. But Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abdul Basit has reiterated that Pakistan will continue making its contributions toward achieving peace and stability in Afghanistan.
“Reconciliation in Afghanistan has always been our top-most priority and Pakistan has all along categorically said that we would be supporting Afghan-led and Afghan-owned [peace] efforts, he said. "And we will support any effort that leads to reconciliation and political stability in Afghanistan.”
The efforts aimed at promoting peace and reconciliation suffered major setbacks in recent months.
The assassination of Afghanistan’s top peace negotiator, former president Burhanuddin Rabbani, in September led to Afghan allegations that neighboring Pakistan was behind it. While the two sides were engaged in a war of words over the issue, the killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers in a cross-border U.S. airstrike in late November dealt another blow to joint counter-terrorism efforts and political reconciliation in Afghanistan.
The deadly raid led to suspension of Pakistan’s cooperation with the United States and NATO forces, and Islamabad says the restoration of the ties is contingent on approval by the country's parliament, which is due to meet early next month.