ISLAMABAD - Pakistan and the United States will discuss regional peace and enhanced bilateral ties today (January 20) as US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Alice Wells arrived in Islamabad for talks.

Wells’ visit comes after the US credited Pakistan for imminent peace deal between the US and the Afghan Taliban at a meeting between Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and his American counterpart Mike Pompeo in Washington.

The foreign ministry said Pompeo appreciated Pakistan’s efforts for peace in Afghanistan. The meeting was held 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.

Recently, 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.

Foreign Office Spokesperson Aisha Farooqui said Alice Wells will hold meeting today (January 20) at the foreign, commerce, finance and interior ministries with the Pakistani officials. “The meeting will discuss all bilateral issues of mutual interest,” she elaborated

Reports said Wells will remain in Pakistan until January 22. A regular visitor to Pakistan, Wells will hold meetings with senior government officials to deliberate upon the matters of mutual and regional interests as the whole world was trying to defuse US-Iran tension. Wells’ tour to Pakistan is part of her 10-day visit to the region. The US envoy has visited Sri Lanka and India before Pakistan tour.

FM Qureshi has already briefed Pompeo about his visits to Iran and Saudi Arabia where he held talks last week to defuse tension in the Middle East. He had said Pakistan was committed to playing its due role in de-escalating prevailing tensions and promoting peace in the Middle Eastern region.

Fears of US-Iran war sparked after the US assassinated Iran’s top military commander Qassem Soleimani in an air strike at Baghdad’s international airport on January 3.

In retaliation, Iran launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles at the Ain al-Assad airbase in Iraq’s Anbar province and a military facility in Erbil.

Hours later, a Ukrainian International Airlines flight PS752 bound for Kyiv crashed after take-off from the Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran, adding to the tension.

Pakistan has urged for active diplomacy to de-escalate tensions in the Middle East. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said Pakistan was very clear on its position on the ME situation. “We stand for peace, stability and security in region. I have reiterated this to all stakeholders in my recent conversations,” he tweeted.

US President Donald Trump had ordered an air strike on an Iraqi airport in Baghdad, which killed Soleimani - classified by the Barrack Obama administration as a ‘terrorist.’

The attack came just days after protesters who support Iran-backed Iraqi Shia militia raided on New Year’s Eve the US embassy in Iraq, which has never been breached before.

Several US politicians and pundits have questioned whether the attack was warranted and said they had not seen enough intelligence to warrant the action. Trump said he ordered the killing because Soleimani had ordered attacks on Americans in the Middle East.

Iran has since placed an $80 million bounty on Trump’s head and threatened to attack the White House in response to the President’s warning that any strike on American interests in the region will bring massive retaliation.

Over the weekend, the US State Department had expressed concerns over the arrests of political leaders and residents and communication blackout in Kashmir.

Alice Wells had said: “We look forward to a return to normalcy in the valley.” She also stated that US was closely following the trip of diplomats to held Kashmir.