Will Karzai visit to Pakistan boost peace?

Islamabad, Aug 25 (IANS) Afghan President Hamid Karzai's visit to Pakistan Monday will push forward peace and reconciliation process in the war-torn country, Afghan ambassador to Pakistan Umer Daudzai said Sunday.

Daudzai told Xinhua that leaders of the two countries will explore ways to boost economic ties and discuss another transit trade agreement that will allow Pakistan to have access to Central Asian states through Afghanistan.

Karzai will hold official talks with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on bilateral relations, with special focus on Pakistan's key role in encouraging the Afghan Taliban to join the peace process.

Karzai called his visit to Pakistan important as Sharif was committed to ensuring security in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"The first agenda in this trip will be the peace process with Pakistan. In other words, it is the issue of security and it will be discussed and negotiated," Karzai said Saturday.

Pakistani officials were also hopeful about the visit and said Islamabad was willing to facilitate the peace process in Afghanistan.

"The two sides will work together to promote the shared objectives of peace and security in our region," foreign ministry spokesman Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry said.

"Matters relating to peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan, bilateral relations and regional situation will be the focus of discussions during the visit," he added.

The spokesman said Pakistan would continue to extend support for the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan. "In that regard, whatever steps that we deem are helpful will be taken."

Afghan ambassador Daudzai said both countries had made substantial progress to promote people-to-people contact, education, culture and trade but there was no forward movement in the area of security.

"Afghanistan has always demanded cooperation from Pakistan," said Daudzai.

"Now, the government of Pakistan in the past one year at least has made statements that have been in the right direction, and statements that have given us a lot of hopes, but the gap between those statements and the real action has been too large."

He said Kabul strongly believed that Islamabad's role was key to the Afghan peace process as Pakistani officials have publicly admitted their role in Qatar peace process between the Taliban and the US.

"When they (Taliban) began to open the office in Qatar, Pakistan gave a statement that they have been facilitating contacts between the Taliban and the US, or rather, have helped in establishing that contact.

"Now, we say that if Pakistan can facilitate a contact between the Taliban and the US, they can also facilitate a similar contact between the Afghan government and the Taliban."


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