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Pakistani PM To Visit Kabul On April 6

FILE: Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi
FILE: Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi

Pakistan's Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi is scheduled to travel to Afghanistan on April 6 on a landmark visit that could help ease tensions between the two neighbors.

Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Faisal said on April 5 that Abbasi will head to Kabul for a daylong visit to discuss a range of issues, including ways to facilitate talks between Kabul and the Taliban.

"Pakistan has expressed its support for an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process over and over again. Pakistan wants a solution to the Afghan issue through talks and political process," Faisal said.

Abbasi's Afghan visit, his first visit since becoming prime minister last year, comes as the Western-backed government in Kabul has been struggling to fend off the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.

Afghan and U.S. officials have long accused Pakistan of providing a safe haven for terrorists operating in Afghanistan, a charge Islamabad fiercely denies.

Ahead of his planned trip, Abbasi said that "nobody wants peace in Afghanistan more than Pakistan because we are the most affected" by terrorism.

"We stand for peace in Afghanistan,” he told a counterterrorism conference in Islamabad on April 5.

Last month, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani offered to allow the Taliban to establish itself as a political party and said he would work to remove sanctions on the militant group, among other incentives, if it joined the government in peace negotiations.

In return, the militants would have to recognize the Kabul government and respect the rule of law.

But the Taliban has so far ruled out direct talks with Kabul and insisted it would only negotiate with the United States, which it calls a "foreign occupying force."

The United States insisted that the Afghan government must play a lead role in peace negotiations.

With reporting by AP