Visiting Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, left, reviews guard of honor with Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan in Islamabad, Pakistan, June 27, 2019, in this photo released by the Press Information Department.
Visiting Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, left, reviews guard of honor with Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan in Islamabad, Pakistan, June 27, 2019, in this photo released by the Press Information Department.

ISLAMABAD - Afghan President Ashraf Ghani ended a two-day official visit to Pakistan on Friday, where he is said to have sought the neighboring country's support in persuading the Taliban to engage in a peace dialogue with his government.

Ghani's delegation held extensive wide-ranging talks with Prime Minister Imran Khan and his team in Islamabad, which focused on resetting strained bilateral ties and working together to promote reconciliation with the Taliban through an intra-Afghan peace process.

"Pakistan has an important role and there are strong interdependencies between [the] Taliban and Pakistan. We need to recognize this and arrive at programmatic approaches to move from conflict to cooperation," the Afghan leader said while addressing a seminar in Islamabad. 

In this photo released by the Press Information Department, visiting Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, right, is received by the chief minister of Punjab province Usman Buzdar at Lahore airport in Pakistan, June 28, 2019.
In this photo released by the Press Information Department, visiting Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, right, is received by the chief minister of Punjab province Usman Buzdar at Lahore airport in Pakistan, June 28, 2019.

Analysts saw Ghani's remarks as a marked shift in Kabul's stance toward Pakistan. Afghan officials routinely accuse the neighboring country of supporting and providing sanctuaries to Taliban insurgents to fuel violence in Afghanistan, charges Islamabad rejects.

The Afghan president said he has had "constructive" discussions with Pakistani leaders on seeking their cooperation in promoting peace and reconciliation in his war-shattered country but he declined to reveal details.

The state-run Institute of Strategic Studies hosted the seminar on Thursday but media was not allowed to cover it. The Afghan government, however, on Friday released the entire video of Ghani's speech.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told the seminar his country would do its utmost to facilitate the Afghan peace process. 

"We will encourage and facilitate an intra-Afghan dialogue, which we feel is essential for reconciliation, and we will try and gain each other's trust," Qureshi said. 

The foreign minister emphasized the need for both the countries to open "a new chapter" in their bilateral relations. 

"Let this visit of yours be a watershed, let this visit of yours be a turning point so that we don't accuse each other quoting the past. We look towards the future with hope and encouragement," Qureshi stressed. 

U.S.-Taliban talks

Ghani visited Pakistan as American and Taliban negotiators are set to hold a round of talks on Saturday in their nearly year-long peace dialogue to find a political resolution to the Afghan war.  

The U.S.-Taliban talks have excluded the Afghan government from the outset because the insurgents dismiss it as an American "puppet" with no decision-making authority.

Saturday's meeting between American and Taliban negotiators in Qatar is expected to finalize a draft text outlining insurgent commitments that Taliban-controlled areas will not be allowed to become a hub of international terrorism. 

US envoy for peace in Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad speaks during a debate at Tolo TV channel in Kabul, Afghanistan, April 28, 2019.
FILE - U.S. envoy for peace in Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad speaks during a debate at Tolo TV channel in Kabul, Afghanistan, April 28, 2019.

In return, Washington has promised to announce a troop withdrawal timeline, according to the Taliban. But chief American negotiator, Zalmay Khalilzad, has said the final deal would also bind the Taliban to cease hostilities and engage in intra-Afghan peace dialogue.

Taliban officials, however, have publicly rejected those assertions, saying they would discuss cease-fire and participation in Afghan-to-Afghan talks after securing a troop withdrawal agreement with the U.S. 

Washington has been pressing Islamabad, which takes credit for arranging the talks, to persuade the Taliban to show flexibility to make the dialogue process successful. 

Pakistan also hosted earlier this week around 60 top Afghan political personalities, mostly representing opposition groups, for a peace conference on how to further reconciliation among warring sides in Afghanistan. They included several presidential hopefuls who will be contesting the September presidential elections in which Ghani will also be seeking re-election.

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