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Leading Afghan Peace Negotiator Urges Fresh Start In Relations With Pakistan

Abdullah Abdullah is visiting Pakistan.
Abdullah Abdullah is visiting Pakistan.

Afghanistan’s top peace negotiator says Afghanistan and Pakistan are on the threshold of a new relationship characterized by “mutual respect, sincere cooperation, and shared prosperity.”

Abdullah Abdullah, who is on a bridge-building mission to Pakistan, said the neighboring countries should shun the suspicion, rhetoric, and conspiracy theories that have dogged relations in the past.

Abdullah met with both Prime Minister Imran Khan and the powerful chief of the army. In a statement following his talks with Abdullah, Khan vowed Pakistan's support for a postwar Afghanistan.

Khan said in his meeting with Abdullah he “underscored that all Afghan parties must work for reduction in violence leading to cease-fire,” according to the statement.

There was no immediate comment from Pakistan's military following Abdullah's meeting with Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

Earlier in the day Abdullah told the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad that he believes that after “many troubling years” the two countries “need to go beyond the usual "stale rhetoric and shadowy conspiracy theories that have held us back.”

He said people are demanding “fresh approaches” and it is more urgent than ever “to look to our region as one region.”

Afghanistan has long had troubled relations with Pakistan, which Kabul and Washington accuse of harboring and aiding the Taliban leadership, a claim Islamabad has denied.

Pakistan claims its influence over the Taliban is overstated but says it is willing to do whatever is possible for peace in Afghanistan.

Abdullah’s visit comes as intra-Afghan peace negotiations are under way in the Gulf state of Qatar.

Negotiators from the Afghan government and the Taliban have been locked in talks since September 12 but have been unable to agree a framework for the negotiations aimed at ending the 19-year war.

Abdullah, the head of Afghanistan's High Council for National Reconciliation, a body that oversees the peace talks, arrived in Islamabad on September 28 for a three-day visit.

He said the current intra-Afghan talks offer the best hope to put the war in the past. He said Afghanistan does not want a “terrorist footprint” within its borders or any entity in Afghanistan to pose a threat to any other nation.

Despite the efforts for peace, violence continues in Afghanistan. On September 29, a roadside bomb killed at least 14 civilians in the central province of Daikundi.

The provincial governor's spokesman, Nasrullah Ghori, told RFE/RL that seven women, five children, and two men died when their vehicle was hit by the explosion. Three other passengers were wounded in the blast, he said.

No group has claimed responsibility for the blast, but Interior Ministry spokesman Tareq Arian blamed the Taliban.

The talks in Qatar follow a landmark deal signed between the United States and the Taliban in February. Under the deal, foreign forces will leave Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which agreed to negotiate a permanent cease-fire and a power-sharing formula with the Afghan government.

Pakistan faces its own challenges after most major opposition parties demanded the country’s powerful generals surrender their stranglehold over politics and withdraw support for Khan’s administration.

The newly formed Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) on September 29 announced it would kick off a nationwide protest campaign on October 11 RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan reported.

Based on reporting by AP
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