ISLAMABAD - The United States has thanked the Pakistani leadership for their assistance in facilitating the travel of the Taliban’s negotiating team as both sides discussed how peace in Afghanistan will also benefit Pakistan.

A statement issued by the US Embassy in Islamabad on the conclusion of Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad’s visit to Pakistan said that Pakistan and the United States discussed ways to unlock opportunities for regional economic integration and development through peace in Afghanistan.

It said Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, visited Islamabad from April 5 to 6 to continue discussions with the Pakistani civilian and military leadership on the status of the Afghanistan peace process.

The Special Representative met with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua, and Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

The statement said that in his meetings, Ambassador Khalilzad thanked the Pakistani leaders for their assistance in facilitating the travel of the Taliban’s negotiating team. “Both sides discussed how peace in Afghanistan will also benefit Pakistan and can unlock opportunities for regional economic integration and development,” it added.

The United States looks to Pakistan to continue playing a positive role in supporting the peace process, the statement concluded.

Zalmay back in Kabul, to hold more talks with Afghan leaders today

The US envoy, seeking a peace deal with the Taliban to end nearly 18 years of war in Afghanistan, had arrived for talks in Pakistan. During the recent visit, Zalmay Khalilzad had met with Foreign Minister Qureshi, who had reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to the peace process. Pakistan is seen as playing a key role in securing a peace agreement between the US and Afghan Taliban.

The Afghan-born diplomat had been shuttling back and forth to the region in a bid to garner support for a peace deal.

Khalilzad has held several rounds of talks with Taliban negotiators in Qatar and announced after the latest rounds of talks in March, that both the sides had made real strides.

During his visit, Khalilzad had met with Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa and had lauded him for Pakistan playing a massive role in sustaining peace and stability in the entire region.

According to TOLONEWS, US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad wrapped up his two-day visit to Islamabad where he held meetings with Pakistani officials to discuss issues around the Afghan peace process and Pakistan’s role in this regard.

Khalilzad said in a tweet on Saturday evening that during his Islamabad visit, he thanked Pakistan for recent efforts supporting the Afghan peace process and for “re-affirming the understanding that ultimately Afghans, and Afghans alone, will determine their future”.

He said that “always more work to be done”.

Reports indicate that Khalilzad will meet with Afghan leaders on Sunday (today), which will be a follow-up of his first meeting with the Afghan government leaders and politicians where they discussed the peace process and the upcoming Qatar meeting.

This comes as Khalilzad, during his five-day stay in Kabul before going to Islamabad, met with Afghan leaders, politicians, civil society members, youths, women and tribal elders where they exchanged views on Afghanistan’s peace process. A day before his trip to Pakistan, Khalilzad said Pakistan should change its policy towards Afghanistan; otherwise, “Islamabad and Washington’s ties will not improve”. He made the remarks while talking to a number of youths from Bamiyan, Jawzjan and Parwan provinces in a video conference.

KABUL TO FORM PEACE COUNCIL

Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah on Saturday told TRT World that an initiative is underway which will lead to the establishment of a council on peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.

There’s hope that the newly-formed council will bring about an eventual power-sharing agreement with the Taliban, according to Abdullah.

Speaking to TRT World on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Jordan, Abdullah said, “Hopefully tomorrow, or in the coming days there will be a leadership council for reconciliation established.”

He said the purpose is to present a unified and solidified vision for Afghans as far as the peace process is concerned. He added that the eventual purpose of the Leadership Council for Reconciliation is aimed at “some sort of power sharing agreement with the Taliban.”