ISLAMABAD   -  Pakistan has launched a campaign to win over the key neighbours on the Afghanistan issue and regional peace.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, accompanied by Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua and senior officials of the foreign ministry, will leave for a four-nation tour today (December 24) as part of the government’s policy of ‘outreach in the neighbourhood’. He will visit Afghanistan, Iran, China and Russia from December 24-26.

“During the visit, the Foreign Minister will discuss Pakistan’s bilateral relations with senior leadership of these countries to strengthen cooperation in various areas,” said a foreign ministry statement.

Implementing the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan, Pakistan is eager to strengthen ties with the neighbours and regional partners. Such cooperation is the key to unleashing Pakistan’s considerable potential and expanding mutually beneficial economic cooperation and development, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Besides detailed exchange of views on important areas of bilateral cooperation, views will also be exchanged on the fast changing regional and international environment, it said.

The foreign ministry said that recent developments concerning peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan would also be discussed during these meetings. Pakistan has always maintained that solution to conflict in Afghanistan lies in an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process. International community’s recent consensus to adopt this as the guiding principle to resolve the 40-years old Afghan conflict, vindicates Pakistan’s long held view.

The visit is part of promoting various initiatives and ideas for regional cooperation, especially in promoting economic and people-to-people linkages, added the ministry statement.

Pakistan arranged a meeting between the Afghan Taliban and the United States last week with an aim to ensure peace in the war-torn country. Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, UAE and other stakeholders were in touch during the meeting.

Since Iran was not in picture, Qureshi has decided to visit the neighbouring country first. He is expected to brief the Iranian counterparts on the Afghan talks and seek their inputs. Other issues of mutual interest will also be discussed.

The FM recently participated in the China-led tripartite dialogue in Kabul which was attended by Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. The meeting aimed to advance the ongoing peace talks in Afghanistan to catalyze an end to the 17-year invasion of the country by US troops.

The US was not in favour of going into the dialogue process led by China but Pakistan differed with the idea. Pakistan had told the US that China’s role on Afghan peace would not undermine that of the US. Islamabad has been trying to convince Washington that Beijing was naturally a stakeholder in the regional peace.

This month army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa visited Iran and had positive meetings with civil and military leaders. During Bajwa’s visit, the two sides heaped praise on each other despite differences on regional issues – mainly Afghanistan.

General Bajwa had met President Hassan Rouhani, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and the chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces Major General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri.

Days before the army chief’s visit, Pakistan and Iran had agreed to work together for peace in Afghanistan and the regional stability. The two countries had held informal consultations on regional situation including Afghanistan.

In November, Russia had hosted talks on peace and Afghanistan Taliban which among Afghan leaders were also participated China, Iran and Pakistan.

Sitting between Afghan representatives and their Taliban rivals, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov played the roles of mediator and experienced hand in Afghanistan’s conflicts.

Russia hosted the landmark talks almost 30 years after it pulled out of Afghanistan in disgrace, ending a decade-long Soviet occupation that was seen as another chapter in what historians called the “great game” by world powers to hold away over Afghanistan and nearby areas.

There were no significant breakthroughs during the Moscow meeting, which was attended by representatives of 11 countries. But delegates widely acknowledged that the meeting itself was a feat.

This month, US President Donald Trump wrote a letter to PM Imran Khan seeking Islamabad’s support in securing a “negotiated settlement” to the war in Afghanistan.

This came as Washington stepped up efforts to hold peace talks with the Taliban, more than 17 years after the invasion of Afghanistan. In his letter, Trump said a settlement is “his most important regional priority”, the Pakistani foreign ministry stated. “In this regard, he has sought Pakistan’s support and facilitation”, it added.

Prime Minister Imran Khan and Foreign Minister Qureshi welcomed US President Donald Trump’s letter seeking Pakistan’s cooperation for reconciliation process in Afghanistan.

Qureshi later tweeted: “Pakistan will continue to cooperate with sincerity for political settlement in Afghanistan. Long-lasting peace in Afghanistan is in Pakistan’s best interest.”

Officials said the FM’s consultation with the key stakeholders on the Afghanistan issue will be helpful in future talks with the Afghan Taliban.

“One country cannot solve the decades-old issue. The regional countries need to play their role and we are making efforts to bring them together,” a senior official said.

Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Mohammed Faisal said Pakistan was committed to Afghan peace and has repeatedly highlighted the importance of the dialogue.