ISLAMABAD - Pakistan and the United States yesterday showed optimism about the Afghanistan peace as US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad called on Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa here.

Gen Bajwa and Khalilzad discussed the regional peace situation and matters of mutual interest, says a statement issued by the military media wing ISPR.

“The US Special Representative appreciated the efforts of Pakistan for peace in the region. They also discussed the Afghan reconciliation process,” it added.

Separately, Khalilzad also called on Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi here.

“During the meeting, matters pertaining to joint efforts for restoring peace in Afghanistan and current situation in the region came under discussion,” a foreign ministry statement said.

“Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad updated Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on the ongoing peace talks with Taliban and lauded the reconciliatory role of Pakistan in that regard,” the statement said.

“The two sides agreed to continue consultations to make joint efforts for Afghan peace process,” it added.

Qureshi said that Pakistan will continue supporting peace efforts in Afghanistan as a joint responsibility.

He said that a peace deal between the US and the Afghan Taliban would pave way for ‘Intra-Afghan Dialogue’ and also prove beneficial for stability in Afghanistan, which will prove useful for peace and stability not only in Afghanistan but the entire region.

Pakistan has been working on Afghan peace for years. The US credited Pakistan for imminent peace deal between the US and the Afghan Taliban as Foreign Minister Qureshi recently met his American counterpart Mike Pompeo in Washington. Pompeo had appreciated Pakistan’s efforts for peace in Afghanistan.

The meeting came after FM Qureshi announced that the Afghan Taliban were willing to shun violence. “This is a step toward peace agreement in Afghanistan,” he added – indicating a major diplomatic victory for Pakistan.

The US and Taliban officials had announced a resumption of official negotiations for the first time since President Donald Trump abruptly halted talks three months ago to end the 18-year war. Last month, Pakistan and the US had shown satisfaction with the recent talks between the US and the Afghan Taliban in Doha, Qatar.

Prior to meeting Pompeo, Foreign Minister Qureshi had urged the US for a “responsible” withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and not to repeat the ‘mistake’ of 1980s’ pull out by the then Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

“Pakistan is asking (Washington) for a responsible withdrawal unlike in 80s which created a vacuum for the destructive forces to take over,” he said.

He mentioned that Pakistan facilitated a dialogue with Taliban on the request of President Trump “in a hope for peace and stability”.

He expressed the hope for an agreement between the US and the Afghan Taliban. “The Taliban are today talking to US and there is a possibility of an agreement,” he said, adding the announcement by Taliban of a ceasefire of 7-10 days was a positive step.

The FM said that Pakistan will continue its efforts for political solution to lingering Afghan conflict. He underlined the need of strengthening bilateral trade and investment to materialize joint vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan and US President Donald Trump.

Later, in a meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan, US President Donald Trump said his country had never been closer to Pakistan than today as he pledged help on the Kashmir issue.

Speaking to journalists before a formal meeting in Davos on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos on January 21, Trump said: “The two countries have a good relationship. We have never been closer with Pakistan.” He added: “And this is a big statement.”

President Trump also offered to play a role regarding Kashmir issue. “We have been closely monitoring the situation in (occupied) Kashmir. I will (later) discuss the Kashmir issue with Prime Minister Imran Khan,” adding he would speak to Indian PM Narendra Modi on the dispute. Donald Trump said Imran Khan was his friend and he was happy to meet him again.

“What’s going on between Pakistan and India … if we can help, we certainly will be willing to. We have been watching it very closely and it’s an honour to be here with my friend,” he maintained.

PM Imran Khan said: “Fortunately, America and Pakistan are on the same page regarding Afghanistan. Talks are being held between their government and Taliban.”

As the peace deal between the US and the Taliban becomes obvious, the US has started getting warmer to Pakistan. The Donald Trump administration has approved a resumption of Pakistan’s participation in a coveted US military training and educational program more than a year after it was suspended.