ISLAMABAD       -        Pakistan and the United States yesterday discussed the Afghanistan situation ahead of US-Afghan Taliban talks in Doha.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi held talks with US Chargé d’Affaires in Pakistan Paul W Jones on the burning issue.

The FM said that Pakistan will continue playing its reconciliatory role for peace in Afghanistan. He said progress and development of the entire region directly depend upon the peace in Afghanistan.

The US negotiator on Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad will shortly resume talks with the Afghan Taliban, three months after President Donald Trump abruptly halted diplomatic efforts that could end America’s longest war.

Zalmay Khalilzad has arrived in Kabul on the start of his mission, which follows Trump’s trip last week to Afghanistan, where he gave his blessing for a return to negotiations.

The State Department said that Khalilzad, a veteran US negotiator who was born in Afghanistan, would head to Qatar to meet with the Taliban after his meetings in Kabul.

In a nod to concerns raised by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, the State Department voiced support for a ceasefire - a key priority for Kabul before any negotiations with the Islamist insurgents.

“Ambassador Khalilzad will rejoin talks with the Taliban to discuss steps that could lead to intra-Afghan negotiations and a peaceful settlement of the war, specifically a reduction in violence that leads to a ceasefire,” a State Department statement said.

In September, the United States and the Taliban had appeared on the verge of signing a deal that would have seen Washington begin pulling thousands of troops out of Afghanistan in return for security guarantees.

It was also expected to pave the way towards direct talks between the Taliban and the government in Kabul and, ultimately, a possible peace agreement after more than 18 years of war.

Shah Mehmood Qureshi said Pakistan welcomed US decisions to resume talks with Afghan Peace Talks.

“Views were also exchanged on situation in Afghanistan, overall security situation in the region, and bilateral relations between Pakistan and the United States,” said a foreign ministry statement.

Separately yesterday, Foreign Minister Qureshi launched ‘Vision FO’ to ensure a vibrant and effective foreign policy to protect political and economic interest of Pakistan.

Addressing the launching ceremony here, he said that the launch of new website of the Foreign Office will help enhance accessibility and it will be more informative for the visitors.

He said that it will be followed by another launch of APP ‘FM Direct’ which will connect officers of the Foreign Service to the Foreign Minister and the Foreign Office directly from any part of the world. He said FM Direct will create an environment of meritocracy in the Foreign Office.

Qureshi said that Foreign Office has enlisted a secure and active video conferencing facility to connect with the key capitals of the world to get first hand and prompt knowledge of the developments taking place across the world.

He said: “We are going to restructuring, redesigning, and relocating Foreign Service Academy to provide state of the art training facilities to Pakistani as well as diplomats from across the region.”

The minister stressed the need for optimum utilization of available tools and facilities in a more scientific way to upgrade foreign policy of the country.

He said that the foreign ministry will launch FM Connect to engage with different stakeholders, including think-tanks, academia, and media persons for an effective foreign policy formulation.

“We are going to engage with seasoned, experienced, and retired diplomats under Foreign Minister Advisory Council to relate current challenges with their past experiments,” he added.

Qureshi said that economic diplomacy has a vital role in attracting investments, enhancing country’s trade and exports with foreign countries.

For this purpose, “we organized a two-day envoy’s conference titled Engage Africa and the next conference has been scheduled in Nairobi to promote political and economic interests of Pakistan.”

The FM He said the diplomatic corps should look into the Memorandums of Understanding and other agreements, Pakistan has signed with various countries, and devise a policy how they can be used for improving lives of common people.

Highlighting importance and contributions of Pakistani expatriates, the Minister said our envoys need to tap the huge potential of Pakistani diaspora living in European and other countries.  Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Qureshi assured to provide every possible facilitation to the International Non-Governmental Organisations in the registration process.

Chairing a meeting regarding the INGOs here, the FM hailed the services of the INGOs in different sectors.

He however, said the registration of these NGOs and that they abide by the code of conduct was being ensured.

The meeting was attended amongst others by Interior Minister Ijaz Shah, Director General Intelligence Bureau Dr Mohammed Suleman and Secretary Foreign Affairs Sohail Mahmood.