ISLAMABAD - Pakistan and Afghanistan Monday agreed to work jointly as a team to achieve the goal of peace in the region as the US envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation has said the peace talks with the Taliban are entering a “new stage”.

Pakistan and Afghanistan vowed to make joint efforts to promote mutual trust at the first review meeting of Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity here.

Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood led the Pakistani side while the Afghan delegation was headed by Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Idrees Zaman. The two sides exchanged views on cooperation in politics, diplomacy, defence, intelligence and Afghan refugees and agreed to strengthen it further, an official statement said. It added that they also reviewed the progress made in the matters decided between the two countries.

The APAPPS was established in 2018 with the aim to promote bilateral cooperation in different sectors under a comprehensive and institutional framework.

The mechanism works through five Working Groups namely: Politico-Diplomatic; Military-to-Military Coordination; Intelligence Cooperation; Economic and Refugees. The inaugural session of APAPPS was held in Kabul on July 22, 2018, where the two sides had agreed to synergise efforts to enhance bilateral cooperation and build trust.

Review session of APAPPS held | Pakistan, Afghanistan to work as team for peace

Yesterday’s session provided the two sides an opportunity to review progress made under this framework since the inaugural session and to exchange views on further collaboration in agreed areas of cooperation.

APP adds: The US envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation on Monday said the peace talks with the Taliban are entering a “new stage”. 

Zalmay Khalilzad, Washington’s top envoy for Afghanistan, met President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani at the presidency in Kabul late Sunday.

In a series of tweets early Monday, he said an agreement has been reached over the significance of preparation for intra-Afghan negotiations.

“Good meeting w/ Pres @AshrafGhani & his team. Discussed building further intl [international] consensus for #peace. Also regional requirements & implications for peace including recent positive movement in AfPak [Afghanistan-Pakistan] relations & opportunities peace will provide for regional connectivity & development”, Khalilzad said in a Twitter post.

According to the Afghan president’s office, the US envoy presented a briefing about his latest shuttle diplomacy for peace that took him to Europe as well as Pakistan.

“Both sides expressed pleasure over the role of Germany in this regard [intra-Afghan dialogue for peace] and expressed hope to initiate the first round of intra-Afghan dialogue at the earliest,” it said. The US envoy has so far held at least six rounds of talks with the Taliban since taking charge in September last year, but the Taliban continue to refuse pressing demands for ceasefire in Afghanistan.

Last month, Khalilzad had expressed dissatisfaction over the pace of these talks. The annual fighting season is in full swing in war-ravaged Afghanistan as the warring sides failed to reach an agreement for ceasefire in Ramazan and for Eidul Fitr.

This month, Pakistan and the US – at a two-way delegation level consultative meeting here - agreed to move forward together to achieve peace in Afghanistan.

The US delegation was led by Zalmay Khalilzad while Additional Secretary Ministry of Foreign Affairs Aftab Khokhar headed the Pakistani side. The US delegation comprised representatives of Defence and State departments while senior officials from ministries of defence and foreign affairs participated for Pakistan.

Additional Secretary Aftab Khokhar said Pakistan will continue playing its mediatory role in establishment of peace in the region, including Afghan peace process, as part of the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Earlier, US Special Envoy on Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad held meetings with Pakistani leaders during his two-week peace mission to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Belgium, Germany, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to end the long-running Afghan war.

Regarding the meeting between Prime Minister Imran Khan and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on the sidelines of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation summit in Makkah, Khalilzad, said: “It will improve relations between the two countries.”