By Islamuddin Sajid
ISLAMABAD (AA) - Pakistan played a pivotal role in the historic U.S.-Taliban agreement and helped construct “a roadmap to peace” in Afghanistan, the country’s foreign minister said on Saturday.
In a statement, Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the peace process was a complex issue as there were “certain elements who benefit from continued fighting” in Afghanistan.
Qureshi said Pakistan overcame many hurdles to play its due role as a mediator and make the peace process a success, and added: “The deal will be signed [on Feb. 29] in the presence of Pakistan because it was impossible for it to happen without our efforts.”
"After U.S. President Donald Trump called off the peace process [last September], it was Pakistan which worked to make sure the U.S. resumed negotiations,” he added.
He also said the entire world, including the U.S., was praising Pakistan for its efforts, and that Islamabad was confident the peace process would now move forward to an intra-Afghan dialogue.
“After Feb. 29, we will try to build a delegation to facilitate intra-Afghan talks. We have also decided when and how those talks will take place," Qureshi said without sharing further details.
But he added that Pakistan had warned the U.S. to remain wary of elements who may try to derail the entire process.
“I told [U.S. special envoy] Ambassador [Zalmay] Khalilzad that America and its allies need to keep an eye out for certain elements who benefit from continued fighting [in Afghanistan]," said Qureshi.
On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the U.S. and Taliban had reached an agreement to reduce violence across Afghanistan, with a deal set to be signed on Feb. 29.
The initial deal gives the Taliban seven days, from Friday night onwards, to refrain from all violence.
If the condition is met, the U.S. and Taliban will move forward with a broader, permanent agreement.
Pakistan welcomed the announcement and said the agreement will pave the way for the next step of intra-Afghan negotiations.
"We hope the Afghan parties would now seize this historic opportunity and work out a comprehensive and inclusive political settlement for durable peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region," Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Friday.
Pakistan reaffirms its support for a peaceful, stable, united, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan, at peace with itself and with its neighbors, the statement added.