Afghanistan seeks Islamabad support to reach permanent cease-fire with Taliban
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Thursday sought the support of visiting Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan to reduce surging violence in the war-torn country.
Khan's visit to Kabul, his first since he came into power two years ago, came as Taliban resist calls for a cease-fire, there has been little headway in the ongoing peace talks, and the US has announced a sharp drawdown of troops in Afghanistan.
He was accompanied by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and adviser on commerce Abdul Razak Dawood, among others.
Addressing a joint press conference at the Arg Palace following a one-on-one meeting, the Afghan head of state said his country seeks a political settlement to the 19-year-long conflict within the framework of Afghan values, democracy and Islamic law.
"We [Pakistan and Afghanistan] need to overcome the past and cooperate with each other," he said, highlighting historical, cultural and religious ties between the two neighbors. He said the Afghans demand a comprehensive cease-fire with the Taliban.
Khan said his visit was meant to demonstrate support for peace. "Pakistan would do all that is possible to reduce violence in Afghanistan," he said.
Intra-Afghan dialogue aiming for reconciliation is underway in Doha, Qatar. The negotiations began months after a landmark US-Taliban peace deal in February, and Pakistan had played a key role in bringing the insurgents to the negotiating table.
Sediq Sediqqi, the Afghan presidential spokesman, said the two leaders discussed peace, bilateral trade and avenues for cooperation during their meeting.
A joint document on "shared vision" between Afghanistan and Pakistan was also issued, which reaffirmed that the two countries "should look towards a future relationship built on trust."
It called for respect for one another's sovereignty, not using each other's territory for "malicious purposes," furthering people to people contacts with emphasis on trade and free movement, broadening regional connectivity, and return of refugees.
Pakistan hosts nearly three million Afghan refugees who have fled violence in their country.
Both sides agreed to "re-energize" joint intelligence sharing by Dec. 15, 2020, and issue a joint proposal for return of refugees and furthering regional connectivity by Jan. 1, 2021.
It said that government officials will visit each other's capital alternately "to keep the momentum going," and President Ghani would plan a reciprocal visit to Islamabad in the first quarter of 2021.
The document added that Afghanistan will also share with Pakistan summary of the key issues being discussed in the Afghan peace process, and this "shared vision" will be reviewed regularly.