UNITED NATIONS    -   Pakistan has expressed the hope that the US-Taliban talks, which were abruptly suspended over the weekend, would soon resume and open the way towards intra-Afghan negotiations that would lead to a peaceful settlement of the long-drawn conflict in Afghanistan.

“We hope the suspension of the peace talks is only a pause and will resume sooner rather than later as the alternative is a surge in violence, which could push Afghanistan into even more turbulent and uncertain phase than has been witnessed so far,” Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi told the UN Security Council, while assuring of Pakistan’s role as a facilitator of the Afghan peace process.

Speaking in a debate on the situation in Afghanistan, she said that Pakistan had always condemned violence and called for all sides to exercise restraint and to remain committed to the peace process out of its belief that there was no military solution to the Afghan conflict.

The Pakistani envoy said that nine rounds of direct talks between the United States and the Taliban had brightened prospects to put in place the first significant foundation of a settlement, raising hope that the parties appeared closer to that goal than at any other time in the past 18 years.

Earlier this week, US President Donald Trump called off peace negotiations with the Taliban that his special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad had been carrying on for almost a year, after the Taliban claimed responsibility for killing 12 people, including a US soldier, in an attack in Kabul.

The Afghan government was not part of the talks, but President Ashraf Ghani has said that his government is willing to engage in peace talks with the Taliban under the right conditions, including a ceasefire.

In her speech, Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi said that the recent setback should not dampen hopes and the resolve to persist in the endeavour.

“We urge both sides to re-engage, and look forward to an early resumption of talks,” Maleeha Lodhi added.

“Apart from Afghanistan itself, there is no country that has suffered more than Pakistan from the four decades of war and foreign interventions in Afghanistan,” she said. 

In June, Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi said that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan committed to adopt a forward-looking approach and move away from the distrust of the past. 

“Our efforts in facilitating the Afghan peace process, opening of the Torkham crossing point for commercial traffic on a 24/7 basis, and opening of our air space have given further impetus to our bilateral relations,” she said.

Pakistan, she said, had provided significant assistance to Afghanistan in development aid in the education, health, reconstruction and infrastructure development sectors, giving details of the specific projects to the 15-member Council. Pakistan has hosted millions of Afghan refugees for four decades, “opening our homes and hearts to our brothers and sisters”. 

“We remain committed to their safe, dignified and voluntary repatriation,” the Pakistani envoy added. At the regional level, China, Afghanistan and Pakistan just concluded the third round of the Trilateral Foreign Ministers Dialogue in Islamabad this past weekend.  The Ministers reiterated their support for a politically negotiated settlement of the conflict — one that is Afghan-owned and Afghan-led, she stated.