KABUL - Adviser on Foreign Affairs and National Security Sartaj Aziz on Sunday visited Kabul to hold talks with Afghan leadership and assured that Pakistan would extend its full support and cooperation in holding intra-Afghan talks for peace and stability in Afghanistan.

During his day-long visit, Sartaj Aziz held talks with Afghan Foreign Minister Dr Zalmay Rasul. The two sides discussed ways to further promote bilateral relations and prospects for peace in Afghanistan.

Later addressing a press conference Sartaj Aziz said Pakistan was ready to help in holding of intra-Afghan talks for peace and stability in Afghanistan, if the Afghan leaders asked for it.

He said Pakistan has been trying to help jumpstart the peace process as a stable Afghanistan is in Pakistan’s own interest.

However, he said any peace talks must be Afghan-owned and Afghan-led. He said Pakistan would take every step to bring peace in Afghanistan.

Sartaj said Pakistan was again prepared to ease the movement of Taliban negotiators and release more Taliban detainees should the Afghan government request it. “I have brought a message of cordiality and goodwill for Afghanistan,” he told the news conference.

Sartaj, who was on his first-ever visit to Kabul soon after assuming the charge as Advisor to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs and National Security, said “PML-N government wants to expand relations with Afghanistan.”

He said his visit brought a message of peace and cooperation from Pakistan. He said Pakistan wanted to remove all barriers in the way of trade between both the countries. He said expansion in trade would bring prosperity for the people of two countries, besides improving the economy.

Sartaj Aziz flew to Kabul to invite President Hamid Karzai to Islamabad to strengthen bilateral relations and to improve strained relations and help peace efforts with the Taliban.

“We have some influence and contacts with (Taliban in) Afghanistan. But we do not control them,” Aziz said. “It is for Afghans themselves to decide what system and what kind of post 2014 arrangement they would like to have.”

Aziz said Pakistan had helped persuade some Taliban factions to discuss peace in the past, and also had played a role in helping Taliban representatives travel to Qatar before those efforts stalled.

‘’In the future, to the extent we are requested, we can play the same role but at the appropriate time and in consultation with other interested parties,’’ Aziz said.

He said, “The main purpose of my visit is to convey a formal invitation from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to President Karzai to visit Pakistan.”

He said, “We wish Afghanistan a success for those two important milestones.” He reiterated Islamabad’s support for an ‘Afghan-led and Afghan-owned’ peace process with the Taliban.

“A peaceful, stable and united Afghanistan is in the vital interest of Pakistan,” he added.

“Without peace and security in Afghanistan, peace and security in Pakistan cannot be ensured.”

Sartaj denied backing Afghanistan’s breakup or planning to end the Afghan war with a power-sharing role for the Taliban.

Sartaj said Islamabad wanted a reset on diplomacy with Kabul after a sharp deterioration triggered by botched efforts to aid US efforts to start peace talks with the Taliban in the Gulf state of Qatar.

Soon after taking over as adviser to prime minister, Sartaj was almost immediately embroiled in a furor after Afghanistan’s Foreign Ministry accused him of having raised the idea of power-sharing between the government in Kabul and the Taliban to help end the 12-year-old Afghan conflict.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government has always rejected power-sharing with the Taliban, who shut their political office in Doha two weeks ago after Kabul accused insurgent leaders of behaving like a government-in-waiting.

International efforts to start talks with Taliban insurgents on ending 12 years of war are in disarray after the disastrous opening of a Taliban liaison office in Qatar last month.

The office was initially hailed as a first step towards a peace deal, but a furious Karzai slammed it as an unofficial embassy for a Taliban government-in-exile.

The scheduled departure next year of around 100,000 US-led foreign troops and Afghan presidential elections in April have lent renewed urgency to the quest for peace.

In an unusually blunt remark, Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul said that efforts on both sides to strengthen relations, fight terrorism and ignite peace talks “have not been successful”.

“I hope the new government of Pakistan will open a new chapter in Pakistan-Afghan relations,” he told the same press conference.