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We are ready for talks with Pakistan at any level: Ashraf Ghani

05 September, 2017

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ISLAMABAD: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s willingness to hold comprehensive dialogue with Pakistan for regional peace could help in revival of talks.

Ghani issued a statement after he received Chinese special envoy for Afghanistan at presidential palace in Kabul.

China has been playing a role of facilitator between Pakistan and Afghanistan as it believes tensions in the region will have negative impact on its economic interests, especially the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the One Belt One Road (OBOR).

Chinese Special Envoy for Afghanistan Ambassador Deng Xijun, who earlier held talks in Islamabad days after US President Donald Trump announced controversial strategy for South Asia, met President Ghani and his top security adviser Hanif Atmar last week.

China was the first country in the region to oppose Trump's statement, followed by Russia and Iran, as the three key stakeholders oppose military option and press for political solution to the Afghan problem.

Ghani used his Eid messages to offer talks to Pakistan, which he described as part of his govt's agenda.

"We are ready for talks with Pakistan at any level. Peace with Pakistan is part of our national agenda," Ghani said after he offered Eid prayers at Presidential Palace.

He, however, said no country can pressurise his nation and he was ready to play his role for regional peace and prosperity. The statement was posted online.

The Foreign Office was quick to issue Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif's statement in response to Ghani's remarks on the first day of Eid.

"We already have bilateral, trilateral, quadrilateral and multilateral mechanisms for dialogue and interaction with Afghanistan in place. Those mechanisms should be utilised to their full potential," the FM said in what could be seen a positive response.

"During our interactions, of late, both sides recognized the need for Political to Political, Military to Military and Intelligence to intelligence cooperation," Asif said in an apparent reference to an understanding between former foreign affairs advisor Sartaj Aziz and Afghan National Security Adviser Hanif Atmar in London in March. Britain had brokered the London talks to defuse tensions between the two neighbours.

Both sides have not made public whatever they decided in the London talks and Afghan leaders always insist "Pakistan should implement decisions of the London meeting".

Kabul's call for a third country's verification of the actions on both sides of the border is believed to be one of the major obstacles in relationship. Islamabad has publicly opposed and both the civilian and military officials say the country will not allow foreign boots on its soil. Pakistan asserts its stance for using bilateral track. However, Asif has kept the option open for trilateral and quadrilateral to discussion on any issue.

Ghani also renewed his offer to the Taliban to join peace process but said he would not surrender to any pressure and will defend national interest with full strength.

"The govt has kept the doors open for peace negotiations with the Taliban despite upper hand of the security forces in fighting," he said.

Taliban Chief Haibatullah Akhundzada rejected Kabul's offer and reiterated longstanding stance that the "main obstacle in the way of peace is the occupation".

"Peaceful solution of the Afghan issue is the main pillar of the policy of the Islamic Emirate, should the occupation come to an end. To this end, the political office has been tasked to find a peaceful solution," the Taliban leader said.

"We urge the regional governments and those of the Islamic world to know our policy and position before announcing any unilateral stance or leveling accusation (against us) and don't view us from the angle of our enemy. The Islamic Emirate doesn't have any intention to harm anyone," Haibatullah said.

Earlier Kabul said Ghani received the Chinese special envoy for Afghanistan and called for regional cooperation and praised the Chinese president's OBOR initiative.

The Chinese envoy assured his country's support to the Afghan-led peace process and cooperation in economic fields, including new Silk Road and railway track that will connect China with Iran via Afghanistan.

Before his talks in Kabul, the Chinese special envoy met Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua in Islamabad and reaffirmed China's continuing and firm support to Pakistan's commitment and efforts for peace and stability in Afghanistan.

He emphasised that there is no military solution to the conflict, and underlined the need for a politically negotiate settlement through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Kabul and Islamabad in June as part of

his country's efforts to push the two countries to reduce tensions and find out solution to problems through negotiations.

Sacked prime minister Nawaz Sharif's meeting with Ghani in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, in early June was linked to Chinese efforts when the relationship was its lowest ebb.

China had brokered a bilateral crisis management mechanism Pakistan and Afghanistan had agreed to establish a crisis management mechanism to "enable the two sides to maintain timely and effective communications in case of any emergencies, including terrorist attacks, with a view to seeking proper solution through dialogue and consultation and preventing deterioration of the situation."

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