Fri, Oct 05, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Pakistan urges new US Afghan peace envoy to soften stance on Islamabad

AP, WASHINGTON

Pakistan on Wednesday urged the US’ new envoy for reconciliation in neighboring Afghanistan to be more sensitive to Pakistani opinion than he has been as a private citizen.

The recent appointment of former US ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad has raised hackles in Pakistan.

Khalilzad has previously called on the US to declare Pakistan a terrorist state unless it stops harboring insurgents.

There has been a negative reaction in the Pakistani media to the appointment because Khalilzad “has made statements in the past which have not been, to be put it mildly, very friendly to Pakistan,” Pakistani Minister of Foreign Affairs Shah Mahmood Qureshi said.

“He’s been given a new role, and I hope, I would urge him to be more sensitive to opinion in Pakistan,” Qureshi told the US Institute of Peace, a Washington think tank.

“Obviously, as individuals, we can say what we want, but once you have an official position you have to be more restrained and you have to be more sensitive, because only [then] can you be an honest broker,” he said.

While Qureshi was responding to a direct question on the issue, it is unusual for a foreign diplomat to comment directly on how a particular US official should conduct himself. Qureshi stressed the need for the US and Pakistan to arrest the slide in their troubled relationship.

Khalilzad was to begin his first trip to Pakistan and Afghanistan as envoy yesterday.

He is also to visit the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the US Department of State said in a statement.

“Khalilzad’s mission is to coordinate and lead US efforts to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table,” the announcement read, adding that the trip “reflects the Administration’s intent to support, facilitate, and participate in a peace process in Afghanistan.”

Qureshi criticized the US’ suspension of military aid, but was upbeat about his talks on Tuesday with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“I was expecting a very hawkish approach, a dressing-down approach. That, pleasantly, did not take place,” he said. “I felt that Secretary Pompeo was ready to listen, which I thought was very positive.”

Qureshi said there was a “convergence” between the governments in Pakistan, Afghanistan and the US to seek a peace settlement to end the Afghan war.

However, the Taliban have so far refused to negotiate directly with Kabul, saying that they want to talk with the US, which has about 14,000 troops in the country.

Qureshi said that Pakistan would “use all its influence” to persuade the Taliban to join a peace process, but its influence has diminished.

The Taliban would have to feel that it is in its interest to negotiate, he said.

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