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Russia's Top Diplomat In Pakistan To Discuss Afghan Peace Process

Taliban and other officials attend the Afghan peace conference hosted by Russia in Moscow on March 18.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrived in Pakistan on April 6 for a two-day trip expected to focus on efforts to bring peace to neighboring Afghanistan.

During his visit -- the first to Pakistan by a Russian foreign minister in nearly a decade -- Lavrov was set to hold talks with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Prime Minister Imran Khan, and army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

It comes ahead of a May 1 deadline for U.S. and other foreign troops to leave Afghanistan in line with an agreement Washington signed with the Afghan Taliban in Qatar in February 2020.

Afghanistan has seen a nationwide spike in bombings, targeted killings, and violence on the battlefield as peace negotiations in Qatar between the Taliban and the Afghan government have stalled.

U.S. President Joe Biden has warned the May 1 troop withdrawal deadline will be difficult to meet, raising the prospect the entire agreement with the Taliban will unravel.

Later this month, Taliban and Afghan government representatives are expected to gather for a U.S.-backed international conference in Turkey meant to give new impetus to peace talks.

Pakistan’s security establishment is seen as close to the Afghan Taliban and is said to have a leverage to influence the militant group’s actions.

Moscow has intensified efforts to interject itself as a key player in the peace push and last month hosted Taliban representatives and Afghan officials for talks.

Islamabad and Moscow “are working together in the Afghan peace process,” Qureshi said in a video statement.

The Russian Foreign Ministry cited a “common concern is the situation in Afghanistan.”

“We look forward to an early finding of a constructive solution in order to end the civil war in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan through agreements on the formation of an inclusive government with the participation of the Taliban movement,” it said in a statement.

It said Lavrov’s visit will also touch upon bilateral trade, which last year neared $800 million.

With reporting by dpa and AP
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